Family History, Life, Uncategorized

Tangible History

 

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” What seems to be the problem, officer?”    Thanks to Daniel Cheung for sharing this on Unsplash.com. It’s not my house, but it COULD be.

I’ve accepted the fact that my home is not my own.

 

Shining plastic eyes of a zoo’s worth of stuffed animals watch as I try to cross my living room unwounded by Legos and matchbox cars.

Bath toys attack from their shelf as I grab the disinfectant, and search for the source of that smell.

Even my kitchen is overwhelmed with school snacks, lunch boxes, and vats of peanut butter to sate the youngest’s cravings.

Since they’ve claimed most of the house as their domain, my littles are confused when I try to keep them out of my room. I can’t let my vigilance waver for a moment if I’m to keep those grubby little fingers (adorable grubby little fingers, which I love) out of the treasures I keep on my bedroom dresser.

My “treasures” aren’t things that would be of much value to any one else. Odds and ends cover the surface: a fabric lei a student brought me from Hawaii, a box of polished stones, a couple of glass beads a friend brought me from Venice…

…and a little bit of tangible family history.

 

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My grandma gave me this handkerchief on my Confirmation day. She’d been given it by her mother, who received it from hers, my great-great grandmother, Anna.

Anna presumably brought this handkerchief from Sweden, along with a few other precious possessions, when she emigrated at 17.

I wonder, did she do the fancy stitching herself before she set sail?

Did she hold it, twisting it as she waited to hear from her friend who was to sail with her?

Did she use it to wipe tears when she heard that her friend was ill, that she’d be travelling alone?

Of course, it’s in pretty good shape after all of these years. Maybe it just sat in the dark bottom of her trunk, safe from the salt spray. Maybe she kept it as something pretty to make her new surroundings feel more like home.

I’d like to think that I inherited a little of her pioneer spirit. I can still feel the trembling, excited terror of finding out that my first teaching assignment was nearly 2,000 miles away from my Minnesota home.

Did she feel the same way? Probably more so, as she was leaving her country, her language, and her family. I could call home any time, and even book a direct flight. Maybe the only things I’ve inherited from Anna are this handkerchief, and the occasional craving for pickled herring.

Over the years, as more family join Anna in her heavenly home, I find myself clinging to these little bits of tangible history. These little reminders that the faces in faded photographs lived, and breathed, and made my life possible, are treasures.

If I can manage to save it from them, I look forward to passing this little bit of their history on to my children.  If…

 

Your turn! If you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about any pieces of tangible history that you’ve held on to – family memorabilia, or other curiosities you’ve come across.

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

20 thoughts on “Tangible History”

  1. Sometimes we writers forget that while words are powerful… the sense of touch is amazing, too. I remember the first time I used ashes on an Ash Wednesday and how overwhelmed the congregation was. I remember my grandma’s house — how it wasn’t really a visit, you weren’t really *there* until you picked up one of the marbles from this wooden marble track she had and watched it go plink! plink! plink! down the track. I love that you have that from your ancestor!

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    1. It is amazing, isn’t it Jon? And hey! My grandma had a wooden marble track too! It was by her fabulous collection of junk jewelry- thanks for a smile, remembering that, and thanks for sharing 🙂

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  2. I have two rather special things that strike a chord (amongst my great and ever-growing collection of special things). The first was found at an antiquarian book fair in the postcard section — a postcard written in the 1930s by the grandmother who died before I was born to the woman who was my childhood babysitter showing our up-north cottage and saying she’d be home soon. I’d never seen her handwriting — no one had. And a box of daily journals from the 1940s until she died in 1971 from my other grandmother. Every day she posted the weather, news (international headlines and local), what she canned or baked, going to the movie, who she sent a card to, who came to dinner or did they go, what was done on the farm… I especially love the one when I was born! It’s making my writing of our family story so much richer.

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    1. Oh, What lovely remembrances! That’s an amazing way to connect with your grandmother and your family history- thanks so much for sharing it! 🙂 Are you planning to publish a family history, or working on something for just within your family circles? (If you don’t mind me asking )

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      1. I haven’t quite figured it out yet! (Publishing a family history). I’m up to 30,000 words and I’m not even through my parent’s generation! I’m focusing on the stories more than the birth dates, etc. That gets boring. But the stories are good — and the further back, the harder to find. I’ll definitely print for the family, including copies for the cousin kids (probably with blank pages at the end so they can keep it up — or at least, I’d like to think they would.) Some friends have asked for a copy. But nothing big, I think! I’m not sure who else would be interested! I do have a family blog (Leatherman Tree) along with Marmelade Gypsy and post things there, too, and do a family newsletter as I uncover new things (like our great grandfather’s commitment papers to the asylum.) Thanks for asking.

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      2. Some of those old family stories are more interesting (and harder to believe 🙂 ) that the stuff of novels! Best wishes- this sounds like a big job, but one that will be terrific to share as a family.

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  3. This is such a beautiful keepsake, and a great memory of your great-grandmother. I value these things as well and have a small collection of treasures like that.

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  4. You have a story waiting to come out of Anna’s handkerchief. If there’s ever a time to bring her memory alive this is your moment. Imagine the tales you could tell.

    As for me: I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother’s cousin was a wrestler in the 1950’s. He wrestled alongside Gorgeous George and all those other classic names.

    My grandfather was a huge wrestling fan. We went to lots of matches. My only regret was missing out on Andre the Giant.

    One year, for his birthday, I bought my grandfather a Randy Macho Man Savage Doll. He loved it. It stood in his office for years. He died in 1990 but the Macho Man still lives on.

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    1. Thanks Bryan- I’d like to dig into these family stories some day. Thanks for sharing yours! What a great momento! Randy Macho Man Savage also lives on at our house 🙂 The kids love getting out my husband’s wrestling action figures. (It’s kind of hilarious hearing the three year old ask if she can play with the Undewtakew.) Great story- thanks for stopping by!

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  5. You had me laughing at the bath toys attacking. I think keeping pieces of history is a lovely thing, especially when it can be passed down.

    I have a ration book from my grandfather (who I never met). He had the same birthday as me. It is kept safe otherwise my cats would probably chew then vomit it onto the carpet.

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  6. Wonderful – and there’s definitely a story lurking in there! I’m not sure I’ve got anything that old. I have bits and bobs that my grandfather brought back from the Far East (including some ridiculously tiny shoes from China) – he was a regular in the Royal Marines before (and during) WW1 and, attached to the Royal Navy, they got around a bit in those old imperial days 🙂 I have several things of my mother’s and father’s – though probably the most treasured item in the collection is their wartime correspondence. There’s a story in there, too.

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    1. Thank you! Those sound like some fascinating mementos- I’ll bet he brought back some interesting things! It’s wonderful that you’ve got their correspondence. Were they separated for a long time? (If you don’t mind me asking 🙂 )

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