I come from a family that saves stuff. Not valuable stuff. They never had much of that. It’s sentimental stuff and some of it has been passed down for 4 generations. Lately, I’ve been wondering what will happen to the collection once I’m sitting at that big typewriter in the sky.
For example, above is a steamer truck that was a fixture in my grandmother’s house, although I suspect it once belonged to my great grandmother. The family moved by covered wagon from Nebraska to South Dakota in 1897 when my grandmother was just a child. The trunk is made of canvas and wood with leather handles. I’ve always imagined it scraping against the wood slats of a wagon that bumped along some dusty trail to its new life. It’s full of treasures like this fuzzy, hand-painted plaque that was part of a floral arrangement on my grandfather’s casket. He died before I was born, but my mother kept his memory alive with stories. More times than I can count she told me he was the finest man she'd ever known.
I suppose I could part with it now that my mother is gone but I haven’t. Her stories about my grandfather's many kindnesses and the three hundred people who attended his funeral are always at the edge of my memory. Also in the trunk are piles of vintage photos, including one of my grandmother's early boyfriends. I know that because long before my mother died, she and I went through the pictures and I made notes.
Other items in the trunk: my grandmother’s cookie jar, the original poster from the auction of my grandparents possessions when they sold their small farm. The flyer itemizes equipment and buildings for sale, the number of dairy cattle (4) and the number of work horses (7). Also in the trunk are my braids, which were lopped off before I entered first grade but preserved by my mother in a silk handkerchief...
|First grade. My first perm. Two missing front teeth. Disaster.|
...and baby dresses and bibs that my mother and grandmother made for me, my grandmother’s wedding dress, every stitch handmade and embroidered, and a leather-bound Bible (in German) published in 1904, in which all the family births and deaths are recorded. There are a couple of cheesy silk-with-fringe Army pillow covers my dad bought for my mother, probably in the PX, during WWII. His Eisenhower jacket, garrison cap and an olive green sewing kit from that era still reside in my closet.
|My dad was assigned to an Army artillery unit in Europe|
My grandfather made a wooden box circa 1930s that I also have. He decoupaged poinsettias on the bottom, which suggests he might have given it to my grandmother for Christmas. She was proud of his workmanship. Among the items inside are a leather coin purse engraved with the name of a general mercantile store in Warden, Washington once owned by my grandfather and great grandfather, a hook for button shoes and my mother’s 1934 autograph book.
Below are my grandmother’s noodle cutter and her nut grinder, the best I’ve ever used. It looks like somebody mounted a handcrafted gizmo on top of a jam jar. These items bring back memories of the my grandmother's Great Threshing Crew Adventures. Beginning around 1912, she and two of her brothers traveled from farm to farm with their threshing machine, threshing grain for area farmers. My grandmother ran the cookhouse in a wagon pulled by horses. She had no heat, electricity or refrigeration. All cooking was done over a wood fire. She made three meals, two lunches and baked eight loaves of bread every day plus an additional batch of donuts for lunch. Each night she stayed up until midnight preparing potatoes for the next morning’s breakfast. After that, she fell asleep under the wagon, her only sleeping quarters for weeks until the threshing season was over. She was only 22 years old and of all the events in her life, she seemed most proud of these accomplishments. She looked for any opportunity to regale me again and again.
|Remember those glass milk bottles with the cardboard flip tops?|
I'm not terribly sentimental about the things I own. If something happened to them, I’d say boo hoo and move on, but I would mourn the loss of these family “heirlooms.” Attached to each is a story that deserves to be remembered.
What treasures from the past are you harboring?