Over the years we have attended many auctions. Nothing tugs at my heart more than to see family members ruthlessly bidding against each other to purchase a treasured item at an estate sale. In the heat of the moment it is often hard to remember that it is the memories attached to the item and not the item itself that we are clinging unto.
Not all cherished items are antique or expensive. In fact the most cherished keepsakes are often tattered, chipped and worn. We have been married 47 years. Memories of my wedding and wedding showers flood back this week.
The house in Catlettsburg, where my husband's aunts honored our marriage with a shower is now gone. Presents were deposited each gaily wrapped. I could not help but notice that one present was wrapped in wrinkled paper and no bow. The ladies would rearrange and kept tucking this package behind the more elegant gifts on display.
Finally the last present was handed to me. I opened 4 pressed glasses, chipped and worn little dessert bowls. Julina Sexton Horton Klaiber beamed and said "them is desert dishes" and went on to explain that she had used them many years and wanted us to have them. Julina was 91 years young that day. I cherish them and use them every year especially during the holiday and smile each time I look at them. No typographical error this lovely little lady called them desert dishes which makes me think of tropical sandy paradises that she never laid eyes on.
Among my treasures is the bisque cake topper from Howard Clayton and Katherine Marie Halderman Feyler's wedding that took place on 30 November 1918 in Portsmouth, Scioto County, Ohio. It once had a dome to cover the bride and groom in period dress. With the help of descriptive social page articles that announced the event I can envision the day. It now is protected in the bow front cabinet in my living room.
The bow front cabinet sat in the dining room of my grandparents on Gay Street when I was a child. It had gone thru the 1937 flood and was never refinished! But with a few wood chips looks fine. My mother said as the water receded they heard clanging and found a log moving back and forth hitting that glass. It was not even cracked. My mother got it and took it to her home on Jomar in Ashland. My parents brought it to me when we lived in Ohio. As they moved it out the door a large table umbrella, propped up on the wall next to the door slid over and hit the glass. Once again not even a chip to the glass. I held my breath over the years with teen age boys thinking as the keeper of this wonderful piece I don’t want to be the one that damages the glass, after those stories! Now my grandchildren peer thru the glass at the treasures. Little hands leave finger prints that I hesitate to remove because it awes me that they are touching an item from their 2nd great grandparents that went thru the flood of all floods and survived! My youngest son wants the cabinet and it will be his to continue the story.
A few years ago my husband carried my Ginny doll to an antique show; past many people and booths to have her restrung [I was unable to attend]. She is now whole again thanks to his time. When I gaze at her I am transported back to a house long ago in Ashland, Kentucky and childhood memories come alive. I would sit cross legged in my tiny bedroom on Algonquin for hours dressing and redressing her. Mother taught me to take excellent care of any doll’s hair and today she looks like she did almost 60 years ago.
We have more valued treasures. Hubby has his father's leather football helmet. John Henry Klaiber played for a short time on an early Boyd County team. We also have a picture of the team with him in helmet.
Henry and Page Geer Martin's cherry gate leg table with several leaves hosted many family events. These included my great Grandmother Clara Geer until her death the year I was born in 1949, my father, uncle, cousins and friends. Special events were documented with photographs. My father was adamant that it be used in my house. It was a catalyst for his memories. I am so thankful. Now memories are being created around that table for a 6th generation and yes documented with photographs.
Will my descendants care about these physical items? Will they have memories from sitting around our family table? I hope so.
Estates are divided and sold. Natural events destroy items. But memories can be preserved. Oral history pass stories and memories along. Sometimes the stories are veiled by exuberant family members exaggerating to make the tale livelier as they are handed from generation to generation. Not everyone can have the table but photographs can be digitized and shared so that each and every person in the family has a visual that will trigger their own memories.
Just the other day I purchased a lot of books for winter reading. I thought it was all novels until I found the priceless worn bible tucked among my reading material. A beautiful story unfolded written in 1949.
"Mrs. Joyce Stephens Feb 8, 1949 age 16. This bible was presented to me when I married Cecil M. Stephens. There was a $100.00 bill enclosed. My parents, Eva and Boyce McMillon gave all of us $100.00, if we did not smoke, drink alcohol nor coffe. I failed on the coffe. I used the $100.00 on supplies (lumber, etc) for our first home. Dad also gave us 2x4/s from his saw mill. Trees were from the property on East Main (old Merritt property)."
Hubby and I could not let this wonderful bible story alone. A little research showed that this lady lost her husband last year but was still living. Obvious that after such a loss and cleaning out, the bible got lost in the shuffle. I hit social media genealogy walls. Within minutes I had 3 cousins from across the United States wanting that bible. Within three days, one of the cousins, visiting from Florida was on my doorstep to retrieve it. The joy of getting that bible back to family is beyond words or money. We never sell things like that even though we own a antique store Deliverance Farm Cabin Antiques. We always try to get the item back to family members as a heart warming gift.
We are given the best device in the world to preserve memories. The power of the written word. Today we can combine that power with visual photography and sound bites. Genealogy programs allow us to "attach" each digital item with the individual that once owned a physical item or was involved in the activity that created a special memory.
Yes, it is wonderful to have a physical item but so deeply sad if that item is fought over and family ties wounded. It is just stuff and we can't take it with us. But we can hold tightly to the memories.