ENTERPRISE GENEALOGY: Catalog the tales of family heirlooms this

It’s the holiday season — A time for get-togethers, celebrations, and pageantry! ‘Tis the season to visit with family and friends that we see often, or only a few times a year. The next few weeks will be busy. There will be the hustle and bustle of fun, decorating, shopping and taking time to celebrate family traditions, while sharing stories and fond memories of holidays past.

Taking down holiday boxes from the attic or from storage can be a chore, but it can also bring great pleasure! Whether it’s unwrapping special ornaments, polishing the Menorah or digging out great-grandmother’s silverware to set a dinner table brings great joy. Each of these unboxed items are valuable heirlooms and brighten up the home during the holidays. But the best part is the memory of how the treasure came into your home.

Have you shared with your family the memories of each heirloom? Which family member passed it down to now be treasured at your holiday? I have started to document these pieces that mean so much to me. I hope to pass along the information with a picture and notes about the origin of the keepsake. I know that my children and their families will appreciate the effort I took to record the lineage of the family artifact, so they can build upon their story and heritage.

Amy Grant’s song, Heirlooms shares the same sentiment: “Up in the attic, Down on my knees. Lifetimes of boxes, Timeless to me. Letters and photographs, Yellowed with years, Some bringing laughter, Some bringing tears. Time never changes, The memories, the faces Of loved ones, who bring to me, All that I come from.” The lyrics are more than just a few words scribbled on paper, the meaning is deep and purposeful to all families.

As we prepare for the holiday season, we are surrounded by objects that help us to remember small details of those who have passed — quilts made with love by great-grandmothers may be brought out to decorate for colder weather, and a special cup might provide the receptacle for Maw Maw’s hot chocolate recipe. What family heirlooms might you have that will allow a younger generation of children to become better acquainted with their past? What stories accompany the artifact to help them better understand their heritage? 

Some of my favorite childhood memories of holiday get-togethers were the Christmas dinners we shared as a family. Fresh holly picked from a tree planted by my grandfather made the centerpiece for the dining table that had been set with my parents’ wedding china. Company included my grandmothers, aunt and sometimes a few cousins. Mama would be in the kitchen, waiting on the ham to finish baking, and pies of all kinds covered the sideboard. While the menu may change a bit from year-to-year, one thing was always the same: The stories were warm memories of those who may no longer be with us. My father would fondly share how his Daddy always bought enough store bought cakes to “pile high” on the table. While the cakes may not have been piled too high, I always fancied a picture of a young boy with big eyes waiting to taste the marvels of pink coconut meringue sugary confections that covered the length of the family’s kitchen table. My mouth watered just thinking of those lovely creations with  delectable sweetness, all wrapped up in crisp cellophane.

With all of the unpacking of memories and heirlooms, the best part of the holidays is just being together. Having time for family is precious, especially in our hurried state of lives in which we now exist. As you gather for your holiday traditions, celebrations, and meals, take time to enjoy each other and remember those who have crossed our paths, remembering and sharing is the highest form of homage we can pay to our ancestors.

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