Jessie- In Maine, thinking about the past and about family
I recently popped into a local vintage shop and got to chatting with the owner who mentioned many of the delightful items on offer came to him when families offered the contents of a deceased relative’s home. As I looked around I couldn’t help but think of family heirlooms and the things I have inherited from loved ones. So, Wickeds, do you have any special possessions you have received from your own families?
Liz: I have my grandfather’s pocket watch. I always remember him having one in his shirt pocket when I was little, and it was a true gift to be able to have this keepsake of his.
I also have his wedding ring that my mother had created into a heart shape that I wear on a chain.
Edith: I have my grandmother Dorothy Henderson Maxwell’s travel diary from when she drove across country in 1917, and her future husband, my grandfather Allan B. Maxwell’s diaries from when he was fourteen and fifteen. These are immense treasures for their detail of daily life on these adventures. And I just discovered I also have the diary of Allison Maxwell, Allan’s father, from 1868!
Jessie: I have a tiny little brass fire extinguisher that my great-grandfather kept on his lobster boat. When my husband and I bought our place in Maine my mother gave it to me to put on display. I love it!
Barb: I have so much stuff from family, I had a hard time deciding what to show you all. I finally settled on the couch below. I picked it because it has been, in its quiet way, so much a part of our lives. It belonged to my father’s mother’s parents. They were interior decorators, so I always figured it was an order someone forgot to pick up. I have photos of me standing in front of it in New Rochelle, New York in the 1950s. I remember it well from my grandparents apartment on East 36th Street in New York City in the 60s. During the 70s, on my wedding day, I posed in front of it at my parents’ house in Kingston, Pennsylvania. During the 80s through the 2000s, it was at my parents’ house in Dallas, Pennsylvania. My son and my nephew were assigned to sit on it during Christmas morning present opening, so we have tons of photos. It’s really uncomfortable, which is why no one ever sits on it unless we have a full house. The last person who reupholstered it for my mother said it was meant to go in a front hallway where it would only be sat on briefly to put on or take off galoshes. I’m so happy my house in Portland, Maine has an out-of-the-way nook where it can live and where it will only be sat on during the largest of parties. The needlepoint pillows on it, (l-r) were made by my great-grandmother, my mother, and my grandmother respectively.
Julie: I have a few treasures. One is the clock that was on the hanging shelves in my grandmother’s living room. Even more treasured are the recipes and knitting patterns I inherited. She wrote notes in margins, and every time I see that handwriting I smile. Another treasure is a hutch my father made for me. It is Shaker style, and built to be a corner hutch. A family heirloom that will be passed on for sure.
Sherry: Like Barb, I have a plethora of treasures to choose from. Some I include in the Sarah Winston books like the rocking chair that was my great grandfathers and her love of vintage postcards comes from the ones I have from them. One of the things I love is a gyroscope I found in their basement. It’s in the original box with the original string and instructions. You can’t see the price in the photos but it say it was fifty cents on the bottom of the instructions. I’m not sure how old it is. But maybe Sarah should find one at a garage sale!
Readers, how about you? Do you have any special family treasures?
My family (particularly my grandmother) saved very odd and unexpected things–for example, my great-great-grandfather’s commemorative Civil War sword (she never knew the man), a tiny needlepoint picture that her mother-in-law made as a child, in its original frame, and a jar of her husband’s psoriasis medication (that really mystifies me–they were in the process of divorcing when he died of a heart attack in 1945). And a baby dress that belonged to my mother, bought in Havana. Lots of surprises!
One of the more interesting items one of my cousins has–it’s an autograph book that one of our shared great-aunts had everyone on the ship sign when she came over from Ireland to New York in the 1910s. (Of course I took pictures of every page.)
I wonder what’s in that medicine, Sheila!
I think it had a coal-tar base. Weirdly, I wondered if there were any viable cells for a DNA sample!
I have my great grandmother Rachel Petrie’s cobalt blue glass dish, that was put under the Christmas tree for my grandfather to receive his gifts. I’ve had it put away, but now I think I’ll get it out and enjoy it!
I love cobalt blue, Jane!
I have a collection of cobalt glass that I collected in the eighties.
Since my mother and father were both the only children of their generation to have children, my brothers and I have a lot of family things. Probably my two favorites are the carved wooden fox wall hanging music box that my great-great grandfather brought over from Germany (their last name was Fox) and the portrait of my great aunt that was painted in the late 30’s or early 40’s, I think.
That sounds like a lovely family heirloom! I love music boxes!
Yes, my grandparents had a Ten Commandments tablet (made of plaster) which my uncle brought back from England after the war. It stool on a display stand on their mantle. My mother (in her infinite wisdom) had it mounted on a black velvet background with a frame and it hung on our wall for years. I’m having if refurbished and put into a “shadow box” and then find a spot on a wall to rehang it. I wish I could show it to you but you don’t allow photo posts.
Jessie, I posted the photo on your FB message area.
What an interesting family item with a unique history! Thanks for sharing it with us! And for posting the photo on FB!
So many treasured items! I understand young people today are not as interested in the older things, especially dishes and crystal, but each of my three children have chosen pieces they particularly wanted. That pleases me, that they value bits of our past.
We have a ton of treasures to us that would probably not be valuable to most anyone else. But two stand out, for personal reasons. I have a small statue of a young Jesus that my godmother/aunt gave me as a baptism gift. She was becoming a nun then, but later left the convent to marry a childhood friend who whisked her off to Africa, where he was a station chief for the CIA. Now there’s a reversal of fortune, don’t you think? From her Africa years I also have a weird, carved ebony mask that has hung on my wall wherever I’ve lived most of my adult life. I love these two mementoes of this particular aunt, who was quite the character. Of the six daughters in the family, despite (or maybe because of) spending eight years in a convent, she was the saltiest of all the sisters, dropping four-letter words with aplomb, right up to her death last year.
Your aunt sounds like someone I would really have enjoyed meeting!
Yes, many things. A pair of my Grandmother Phelps’s favorite Nippon vases, My Aunt Carrie’s scissors with the Salem Witch on them. (She worked at Daniel Lowe’s when she was 16 and the “girls” had them for cutting ribbon) Letters from 3 times great grandfather to his mother, Great grandmother Forbe’s diary including clips of some of her published writing, Jewelry from both grandmothers, Aunt Carries cobalt blue ash tray with Egyptian theme from the 20s, and photos, photos, photos.
What a lot of treasures! I am especially intrigued by the letters!
I was going to say no, then I realized I inherited my grandmother’s china teacup collection. Some of them she and her friends painted, some were gifts (including one I bought her that came from Russia).
An entire collection! How lovely!
Books! Books about Ireland originally owned Irish immigrant great grandparents. One is a history book that was sold by a Fenian in American to raise money for the cause. The other is a series of engravings showing places I went back and visited. Both are moldy and of no significant value even if they were in good condition, but my great grandparents held them, wrote their names in them and saved them so their descendants would know how precious our island is, so I love them.
What a wonderful thing for them to pass along! You are so lucky!
I have my grandfather’s deHaviland serving platters and covered serving dish. Why my grandfather’s? He worked as a laborer on a road crew in Yonkers, New York and was in charge of securing a vacant house that was to be torn down for the Major Degan Expressway – when he entered he found the house gutted, no squatters, but the china was sitting in the back of a closet. He took it home to my grandmother. It’s dinged and chipped and only of family value, but my grandmother cherished it and passed it on to my mother always calling it ‘Louis’s china.”
What a charming story, Kait!
I can’t think of any I have. Most of them are at my parent’s house. One that sticks out from there is the walking stick that my great-great however many grandfather was given. He was a doctor for the Union during the Civil War, and it was a gift from the men who were under his care.
What an interesting family heirloom, Mark!
My Grandmother gave me her set of Gaudy Welsh china that her great-great-grandmother brought to the U.S. when she immigrated from Wales. It is very eclectic — each piece is a little different — and I love it!
It sounds delightfully unique, Celia!
I have a portrait sized photo of my great-great-grandmother as a young woman (1860 or so) and my grandparent’s wedding certificate. It is highly embellished, like an old illustrated Bible, and framed under glass. Both hang in our livingroom.
Those both sound like lovely treasures, Tina!
I have a train clock that hung in my grandparents’ kitchen that I’ve loved since I was a child.
I have a small clay bowl my mom made at Girl Scout camp in the early 1930s. In addition to making the bowl, she painted the designs on the outside. I have two textbooks, in Italian, that my grandmother used as a young teacher. I don’t speak or read Italian but I think her pupils were first or second graders.
These things are all interesting to me as I been doing my families genealogy for many many years.I love old things and have lots of it hanging on my walls I have my grandparents wedding certificate and photo. My one distant uncle was good at wood crafting and made wooden tiki dolls for key chains for everyone of us. The thing I missed out on because I didn’t know about it. One of my great great grandparent wooden trunk that they came over from Germany with was sold at a auction, I don’t think the people who bought it realized the history in the trunk
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