Inheriting Treasure

Would you explain to me why some people want everything to be new? I have never understood that. Why would you want the things you buy to be just like what your neighbor has? I am sometimes asked why I like old things – I guess because nearly all the things have stories to tell. I’m getting to be a bit of an old thing myself – but that doesn’t explain it – I liked old things even when I was in elementary school. It’s a good thing as I have inherited vast treasure from parents, grandparents and extended family. The stories are often quite colorful and sometimes embroidered over the years by skillful and humorous retelling.

Some of my inherited treasure meets new company now and then. Some years ago I had to buy a china cupboard, so I had room for all of the inherited china from my Dad’s sister and my Mom’s mother. I went to several furniture stores and found nothing I wanted. The cabinets were good sized and came in a variety of finishes and styles. But most had lights in them and cardboard backs and looked, well, modern. I took the same amount of money and bought an antique china cupboard with griffins carved on it which was delivered from the northeast. It doesn’t have a story attached to it unless you credit the story of how I bought the thing on eBay sight unseen. I like stories. I like treasure that comes with stories. So I bought griffins. Bless them. I asked my daughter to remind me what she named them and years after the fact she knew instantly. I include their pictures below.

I have inherited treasures that are still unsolved puzzles such as the torn-three-quarters of an elaborately woven blanket with highly stylized flowers, trees, and eagles, which is dated 1854. My mother was given it by her grandmother and seemed to believe that her grandmother had made it. But the dates are wrong. I have ruled some people out, but haven’t solved the genealogical and handiwork question. The great-grandparent we knew to be a weaver who seemed the obvious person to have woven it – wasn’t old enough to have created the elaborate blanket.

I guess most people won’t rate these as treasures in the usual sense. The treasures that I have, and they are everywhere in my house; all have stories that have been passed down to me. I have quite a few of my father’s woodworking tools, and the toolbox he put together for me when I left home at 18. I still have some of my dad’s small tools in wooden cigar boxes with nice sliding lids. I have my mother’s books and some of the beautiful dresses she sewed for me. I have my grandmother’s embroidery box, with some little flowers she had made and some lacework. I have framed photographs galore – and have enjoyed the detective work involved when the full stories weren’t immediately known. I crafted decorative labels on the back for those who come after me. But loving old things isn’t always for the faint of heart – and I confess mine to be made of pretty soft material sometimes.

Yesterday I cried because of lost treasure. I was trying to explain to someone why a particular kind of music was precious to me, and in attempting to explain it, I opened up a floodgate of memories of a cherished time and place and people who were once very dear to me and who are now beyond reach. One of the lessons I have to keep relearning in life is that we can’t make someone else care about or understand the things we love. All we can do is share the stories; they may never understand.

So much in life gets left behind: family homes, friends that move away and with whom we lose touch, memories of times gone by that are sometimes tough on tender-hearted ones. I admit to being one of those.

I comfort myself by remembering the teachings of my father. One day the Author of all of our lives will bring us together again with words, stories, treasure, music, feasting and joy beyond measure. Then the stories will be understood, the old things will shine, the wine will flow, and the music will enrich us. Then we will all share in the light of the treasure bought for us at great price.

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