I haven’t grown up with the idea that as the firstborn I will inherit the family heirloom and give it on to my firstborn. I don’t think there is or was anything on either my father or mother’s side that could be classified as valuable (in sentiment, not money) enough to be a heirloom. That said, there were enough things of which the sentimental value increased through the years.
For the bigger part of his youth, my father grew up in a orphanage. By the time he left there, he owned very little and by the time he and my mom got married at the end of 1964, they had to build up there life together. Even though they worked hard to build something up, they never put much value in material things.
We had family in the upper south of Namibia, and every time we visited them, my father and uncle went out hunting. They had a huge farm with karakul sheep, but also game. I can still vividly recall the smell of the meat when the adults processed whatever was shot or slaughtered that day.
My father liked to hunt. But when they went out, he used my uncle’s guns. But he himself owned a low caliber rifle, and a revolver, and the latter could easily have become a family heirloom. I have another story to share about the revolver, but that’s for another time. This is about the rifle. My brother hoped that when my father passed away, he would inherit the rifle. However, some years ago my brother learned my father had given the rifle away… to his step-grandson. I think my father just never thought his own son might put value in some of his belongings, simply because of his own attitude toward material things.
As for myself, there is nothing I can think of that my father owns that I would want, except one thing: the family photo albums. My mom had very little of those, so the rest must be with him. Thing is, I have no idea how to ask him for it…
My maternal grandmother
During my childhood years and when we lived in the same town as my grandparents, I frequently stayed with them for the weekend. I adored my grandmother, and she me. I was her favorite, something I frequently felt guilty about since one of my cousins was a sickly child and I felt she had to be the favorite. Of course, that’s not how it works.
One thing I always noticed of my grandmother was a ring she wore. One with a big colorful stone. I always thought it was a family heirloom, that she inherited it from her mother, but I really don’t know the story behind it.
I moved to the Netherlands at the end of 1994, and loved being with both my mom and grandmother. Sadly, my grandma passed away only 9 months after my arrival here, but not before we have made so many more memories. And if course, she still wore that ring.
My mom couldn’t handle her mom’s passing (sounds familiar, right), and even though she was executor of her mother’s will, she allowed her siblings to divide their mother’s belongings. When my mom’s oldest sister passed in 2014, we talked about my grandmother again and I asked her about the ring. My mom said her oldest sister had taken it. That meant that now the ring belonged to one of my cousins.
I wish I could have kept everything that was my mom’s. Of course that was not possible. Her clothes had to go. The furniture. The appliances. She had given everything to my son, but we had no place to store it. We packed a lot of things in boxes, and he has a good base to start with once he moved into his own home.
In the last week in hospital, just two weeks before she passed, my mom asked me to take notes of where her belongings should go. The first thing she mentioned was everything my son should have.
Next up was her jewelry. Things my mom always wore, were a total of six rings, and a golden necklace with a Saint Christopher pendant. She first started with some other, more insignificant pieces. Mom included a cousin of mine, whom she was very close with, in the list, as was my sister in law. The latter had to choose what she wanted; my cousin received a piece my mom wanted her to have.
Of the jewelry my mom always wore, my daughter got her engagement and wedding rings. My son – the two of them traveled to Japan together – inherited her St. Christopher. The rest of her rings and jewelry came to me. Those, her books, her photo albums and some of her decorations came to me.
On the day before she passed away, my mom said that we need to clean out her house. I told her we had already made plans, as we had set the date for the coming Sunday. We all knew mom would never return to her home, but not that she would leave us the next day. That Sunday I kept an eye on everything going on, and the kids and Master T constantly checked with me whether something should be thrown out or kept.
It was on this day that I opened one of mom’s bedside drawers and discovered my grandmother’s ring. I can’t tell you just how happy I was with that. To be honest, the ring was in no way as beautiful as I remembered it (in fact, it’s actually not beautiful at all) but the idea that I finally had my grandmother’s ring, the one I always admired, was really special.
As for my mom’s rings? My daughter took the two she inherited, and she wore it on a chain around her neck for very long. I, on the other hand, couldn’t look at my mom’s personal belongings.
Until sometime in 2019… I sat her at my desk and suddenly had this intense feeling that I wanted to carry something personal of mom with me. My thoughts went to her rings, and I wanted to wear her pearl ring, but it was too small for me. I ended up slipping a different ring around my left hand middle finger, right next to my wedding band. In fact, this was the ring of mom I liked less than any of the others, but at that moment it became one of the most beautiful things. It hasn’t left my finger since, and I don’t think it ever will.
I think material things can become a heirloom because the person who inherits the item, puts meaning into it, because it holds dear memories. To me mom’s ring is special, much more special than it was when she wore it herself. I have put much more meaning into it, just like I have with my grandmother’s ring (which I will retrieve from the attic once I have the emotional space to go through all of mom’s stuff.
When I have my grandmother’s ring, I will put it in the small box we have where we keep some jewelry of Master T’s parents, and the rest of the jewelry my mom wore until the morning of the day she ended up in the ICU.
You can say that’s our heirloom box, and where the things in there might have no material value, their emotional value can’t be described in words. Master T is not a sentimental person, but there is no way he will throw those things out. In his own words: they are for posterity.
I guess that means we do have family heirlooms.
© Rebel’s Notes