Saving Family Heirlooms

 
Tranby House silver tea service, original set ...

Image via Wikipedia

This weekend my family visited my mother-in-law at her new apartment. She had moved in last summer and is still getting settled. Downsizing from a townhouse to a small apartment forced a lot of choices about what to hold on to and what to give away. Much of her furniture,  linens, clothing, tools and various other items had been sold or donated. She kept much more than could comfortably fit into the apartment, so a few months later there was another phase of paring down. We had already taken objects from several rounds of cleaning out: irreplaceable family photos,  a much-used marble chess board and a full set of Limoge china. The latter has been put into safe-keeping for my daughter when she is grown.

When we arrived at the apartment this weekend, we were happy to see how much progress Ma had made in rearranging her furniture and finding a new place for old things. She had her kitchen all set up and had prepared a delicious dinner for us when we arrived. The savory aromas of her turkey ball soup had my son clamoring for a taste. We helped her hang paintings on the walls , which really made her apartment feel like home.

The next day, Ma called me into a closet where she had stored things for which she had no place. By this point of her downsizing they had been whittled down to the most precious family heirlooms with which she couldn’t bear to part. As she pulled out the items, I could see what they meant to her. A silver tea service, an antique planter, a beautiful china cheese plate. I asked her to tell me what she knew about each collection. Some had come from her husband’s side of the family of which she had less information. Most had been passed down through the family for several generations.

How does one decide what to hold onto and what to let go? I could hear the angst in her voice as she pleaded with me to take things home. I wanted to help, so sometimes I created reasons to take things home.

"I don't keep cheese out on the counter, but this will compliment my china set."

I asked my husband whether he knew about a set of silver kiddush cups, which had been bought by his grandfather in Palestine during the 1930s.         He looked them over and agreed we should keep them. Having recently redecorated my living room, I now have a special place where I can display these treasures.

When she unwrapped my late brother-in-law’s silver cup, with the date of his bar mitzvah engraved inside, she became overwhelmed with sorrow. My children both loved him so much that having his special cup will be a silent tribute to him. We can place it on the table in his name at our seder. 

Unfortunately, she could not convince me to take the silver tea set from her parents’ house. Even though it is meaningful to her, at this time I have no place to display it nor would I tend to use it. Maybe someday one of my children would like it, but for now Ma will have to hang on to it. Perhaps as the kids get used to seeing it at her apartment, or experience being served tea with it, this forlorn family heirloom will get a second chance.

Advertisements

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:16:44

    Downsizing or just reducing collections that take too much room or just become clutter can be a challenge. I do not have family heirlooms, but I have things with sentimental value, and some things that I just like, and others that I simply do not know what I would do with them. Certainly cannot throw them in the trash, so maybe Goodwill or Hospice? One of these days I will wake up in a mood that will allow me to cull through all of my collected dust-collecting things. I hope.

    Like

    Reply

  2. themiddlegeneration
    Jan 31, 2012 @ 12:34:17

    I know how much you love dusting, Carol. That would be a good reason to cut down on collectibles- less dusting. I just hope I don’t get to the point where I am accepting too many family treasures that I will have to spend my time doing that.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Chess Returns « themiddlegeneration

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: