Family History, History Class, Life, Motherhood, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Inspiration

Tangible History

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

I had high hopes of sharing a new post with you this week. It’s in process still, as moving preparations continue to swallow all of my life that school and family haven’t already consumed. However, as I sorted through the mess that is my room, I came upon a little box that my grandma painted. Inside were some treasures I hadn’t looked at for a while.

I first wrote this post about one of those treasures in 2018. I enjoyed revisiting it—I hope you do, too!


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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 un-wounded 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.


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!

I’m pleased to report that my latest novel has been getting some lovely reviews. Here’s one:

14 thoughts on “Tangible History”

  1. What a wonderful keepsake. To touch something that was touched by those who came before us is so special. I have some wonderful photographs from more than 100 years ago of relatives. I also have a small teapot that my great grandmother brought over to Canada from South Russia (now Ukraine)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful family treasure!

    I too have something on my dresser-my grandmothers perfume bottle collection. I’ve let my children hold them since they were small, very supervised of course, and they’ve always seemed to understand the importance and reverence surrounding them. They would sit on the floor and hold a tiny blue bottle or the big green one and smile up at me. They’ve always been proud they could be trusted to hold them.

    My grandmother died before they were born and I imagine she loves seeing them hold the bottles and sniff the remnants of another time. They are teenagers now, and I find them occasionally in my room holding one.

    My nephew, who is 3, now comes over and holds the bottles as well. I hope to someday share the experience with my own grandchildren.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What wonderful memories, Anne Clare. I haven’t moved 37 years and one of the reasons is exactly the chaos you are going through. But, a positive side affect is finding these memories. Good luck with the rest of the moving!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A beautiful handkerchief! And a lovely story! I have some springerle moulds that belonged to my great grandmother Esther and (if I’m remembering the family history correctly) she brought over from Germany. As you know, my house kind of resembles a Cracker Barrel 😂 but those are some of my favorite keepsakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a great-grandmother Esther, too (either Anna’s daughter or daughter in law)! Now remind me- is springerle a cookie or pastry? (I’ll have to look that up) The moulds sound like a lovely memento, and a great piece of history. (And I love Cracker Barrel! 😁)

      Liked by 1 person

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