I was reading Effeuiller’s blog this morning (http://effeuiller.wordpress.com/) and the post “Last Song, First Dance” nearly made me cry. It also made me think about when I lost my Grandmother last July and it made me think about the heirlooms I kept in remembrance of her. After she passed away it was so hard to be in her home surrounded by her things and it broke my heart to hear family discussing what they wanted to take to keep as a memory of her. It felt so wrong to be going through her things so quickly but everyone was from out of town so time was of the essence. There were family members who wanted vases or lamps from her home and there were family members bickering over jewelry and china and furniture but I just sat quietly watching my family bicker and argue about all of these cold material things that, even though they were owned by my Grandmother, they had no part of her spirit or her soul. Were any of these family members going to look at that vase or that table 5 years or 10 years in the future and have a fond memory of my Grandmother? A table doesn’t carry the kind of memories I wanted to keep. My family kept asking me what I wanted but I just kept shrugging my shoulders because I didn’t want to choose something just for the sake of having something and somehow I knew that the memento I was meant to have would make itself known to me before I left.

We were in the attic at one point during the cleaning and found a box of books. I looked through them and chuckled at some of the things she had kept (my Dad’s 4th grade history textbook??) and then my eyes teared up when I found a book of children’s tales and rhymes including one about the three little kittens who lost their mittens…

Three little kittens they lost their mittens, and they began to cry,
“Oh mother dear, we sadly fear that we have lost our mittens.”
“What! Lost your mittens, you naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.”
“Meeow, meeow, meeow, now we shall have no pie.”

and I remembered that book being read to me as a little girl. I took it. I tucked it away in my suitcase hiding it away from the prying eyes of any family members that might want to take it although looking back now, who would have wanted a broken down old children’s book about kittens with soiled mittens with crayon marking throughout the interior? I wanted it. It was of no value to anyone else. I took it. I was also given the quilt that had been with her during the service. It’s beautiful and it’s pink and it was handmade by her, it means a lot to me and I still cuddle under it every night.

The most important and most valuable thing that I have I stumbled on by accident when I was cleaning. My family was outside socializing (I was not feeling very sociable) so I stayed inside and, in an attempt to distract myself, I started cleaning. I folded blankets and fluffed pillows, I vacuumed and put books and magazines away, I dusted down tabletops and cabinets and when I dusted the television cabinet I noticed the door to the cabinet was broken. I don’t know why but suddenly I just HAD to know what was behind the broken door. By the amount of dust in front of it I knew that the door hadn’t been opened in years so whatever was behind that door had been forgotten but whatever it was, I had to know. Curiosity possessed me. I pulled and tugged on that door for a good 15 minutes before I finally got it open and then there tucked away in the back of the cabinet in a dusty little forgotten corner was a tattered and torn little brown book. I picked it up, dusted it off, and saw that it was a cookbook that had once belonged to my Great-Grandmother Mabel. The book was from 1937 and inside the front cover was a little handwritten note that said, “Today is December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor was bombed.” Wow. Mabel was my Grandmother’s mother (and had passed away when my Grandmother was in her early teens, 14 years old I believe) and this little cookbook had been their link all these years. I couldn’t believe it! There were little handwritten notes from my Great-Grandmother and my Grandmother all throughout the book, some were little notes of history, some were cooking tips, some were little reminders but they were all special and important and they comforted me. I ran in to the bedroom and I tucked that little book away with the kittens who lost their mittens. I didn’t tell anyone about that book until I had it safely at home then I showed my mother who was glad I took it. I didn’t want anyone to try to claim it and take it away from me. Sure, there are relatives who got quilts and sewing machines and china cabinets and dishes and silver and halltrees while I only got two measley books, a book of children’s stories and an old beaten cookbook but those two books mean more to me than anything else in the world.


2 thoughts on “Heirlooms

  1. I remember the kitten poem being read to me as well. I always felt so bad for them, not getting any pie. Though if I recall correctly, there is another verse and they DO get pie eventually.

    This was so touching to read. Thank you.

  2. They do get pie eventually. First they lost their mittens and got no pie, then they found their mittens and did get pie, then they soiled their mittens by eating the pie, then they washed their mittens like good little kittens. I love that poem. 🙂

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