Way back when I was pregnant with Felix I had a wonderful online community of other pregnant mothers on a mothering.com February due date board. I had an awesome due date buddy who also has a blog and a really cute son!. On Sundays, she does thematic posts about souvenirs; she posts a photo, an item, or even just a memory that is dear to her. She calls it Sunday Souvenir: Souvenir: Something that serves as a reminder of the past, from the French word for remembering.
Living so far from actually family, I don't really house very many relics from my childhood or from my family's history. After my grandfather and grandmother died recently, our family quickly learned what it meant to sift through a lifetime of memories and objects. Although my grandparents were fastidious about their house, over the course of 40+ years being in one house, they collected lots of stuff.
I have felt a real sense of sadness and almost confusion as my grandparents' "stuff" disappears or changes owners. I've had a hard time reconciling how in a matter of days, their house has been dismantled and a lifetime imprint in Kempton, PA is being removed. I have almost felt a sense of panic at times about the question "what happens to all of their 'things'?"
And then there are the "things" like the smell of their basement...or the sound of footsteps on the wooden stairs leading down to the basement...the smell of their garage that housed the fridge my grandfather got his mother after the war. The weight of the white door opening was not lost on me as I always found a way to get a mini glass bottle of ginger ale or coke from it when I visited. Did the white pitchers that contained milk for our cereal get brought to Goodwill? How about the table where I ate sticky buns each morning and stole stuffing out of the turkey? Oh, and the candy drawer that was right next to my grandfather's recliner. I wonder...who emptied that drawer? What did they do with that candy? And the biggest question: who will inhabit this house next? Will they even care about the memories that were created there?
I never thought of anything in particular that I wanted after my grandparents' passing (short of one last hug, or raucous round of haus and phefer--phonetically spelled--late at night with my grandparents, uncle, dad and brothers.)
As my mother, father, uncle, and aunt sifted through their items recently, they would call and ask me about acquiring certain items. Although I didn't have a deep desire to obtain lots of their stuff, I also didn't want any of it to disappear. It's conflicting. But when I thought for a bit longer about what material items they left behind, the one thing I was interested in having was my grandmother's wedding band. It was tiny and gold, and probably saw a lot of hard work, cooking, farming, and life in general. I knew she was only buried with a necklace with an "L" for Lila that my grandfather gave her, so I knew the band was still in the house. Interestingly, my mom and aunt identified she had 2 bands. My guess, not worth the gas to drive over to an appraiser. But the memories I have of my grandmother's hands with that band--the chicken "pecks" from getting eggs each day, baking sour cherry pie, doing dishes, quilting...priceless. I DO NOT wear gold, but the moment I got the rings, I immediately put them on my hand and have not and will not take them off unless I have to.
I'm not sure if I have "felt" my grandparents' presence since they have died, but every day I twirl the two rings on my finger when I get up and talk to my grandmother. I tell her I love her and Grandpop, and will give the boys a hug for them. Something they never were able to do.
In addition to the bands, my mom sent me a number of other things, some of which included: 2 boxes of old cookie cutters, well loved aprons, some early 1900's silver dollars, old family pictures (ummm, is that me or Felix in the one I posted below?), and each of the grandchildren got one of my grandfather's military hats. Felix was the only one who wanted to serve as a model, unfortunately.
Miles may not have wanted to wear the hate, but he was very curious about its origins:
Miles: "Where did we get that hat?"
Ali: "It was my grandfather's."
Miles: "What he name?"
Ali: "You mean, what is his name? I call him Grandpop. But his name is Paul."
Miles: "Where does he live?"
Ali: (without pause) "In Pennsylvania."
Miles: "In Penn-see-vana?"
Ali: "Well, he did."
Miles: "Where does he live now?"
Ali: "In our heart Miles, in our heart..."