I've always enjoyed reading Harry Rinker's columns. Today's "Rinker on Collectibles: What Happened to Grandpa's Things" from Ruby Lane's "Notes from the Lane" is no exception, and it brought back a flood of memories. For those of us "of a certain age", the article will likely evoke an emotional response.
I never knew either of my Grandfathers. Both had died long before I was born, or was even a twinkle in my parents' eyes. My paternal Grandmother died when I was 4, and my maternal Grandmother died at age 90.
My parents retired to Florida from the Midwest, selling the family home and downsizing. My brothers and I were invited to help them sort the memories long-stored in boxes and drawers. As the only daughter, many of my Mother's prized possessions came to me.
In her cedar chest, she had a white box. In the white box was a white silk scarf carefully wrapped in tissue paper. This silk scarf was her father's. He would wear it with his "good" coat to go to church on Sunday. She also had 3 small wooden boxes, all hand made by her father. My brothers, being men, had no interest in "sentimental" items. I have my Grandfather's scarves. We each were given a wooden box. I keep my polished and proudly displayed. I was entrusted with all the family photographs and albums. They adorn my guest room walls.
Over the ensuing years, my mother would give me things so she could see me enjoy them while she was still alive. Jewelry pieces. A knick knack. Some little treasure she knew that I always admired. They assumed places of honor in my home.
My father's family, while wealthy in the early 1900s, lost everything in the depression. There is a box of photographs, but few items. I have my grandmother's cameo pin. Her hand mirror. A pink depression glass bowl. I don't think my brothers have anything. Nor were they interested.
In the cedar chest mentioned above, we found my father's Korean war shower clogs. Some military issue clothing. Bits and bobs of his history. A family vote was taken, and the vote was that what was in the cedar chest stayed in the cedar chest and came to my home.
My father was as was described in Rinker's column: hard-working, a saver, a fixer. If it was useful, keep it. If it had no "purpose", then why bother. He is now in his 80s, and has grown very attached to the few things he has that were part of his family history. He has an old "watermelon glass" bowl. While not worth millions of dollars, it does have a high monetary price, but more importantly a high sentimental value to him. He has all his Masonic keepsakes.
My mother was sentimental and saved things based on their emotional value.
We lost her to cancer 16 years ago.
Among her treasures we found a cardboard box, about 12x12x7. Inside was every wedding invitation, birth announcement, graduation announcement, obituary, and card she had ever received. My puzzled father looked at me and said "You mean I have moved this box around the country for 45 years, and that's all there was inside? Trash?" Mom never thought of it as "trash". It was history, memories, love ... from birth to death, it was all there. I took that box and sorted through it. Most of the announcements were from people long gone. When I found something related to someone I knew, I sent it along to them. A very "woman thing" to do.
I'm still a sucker for ephemera. I will buy large lots of old letters and cards and photographs at auctions. Baby books. Post cards. It evokes a sense of history, of continuity, of the fragility of life and love and relationships.
I am my Mother's daughter.