Updated: Feb 5, 2020
Isn't there something we'd all like to change about our personal history? I'm currently experiencing regrets about a handful of choices I made over a decade ago. They weren't mistakes, just choices that didn't yield the promise that, in their germinative state, seemed to peek at me with hope in their eyes.
March is a month of historical happenings in our family. We've made decisions to move across the continent, lost babies, moved into new houses, received bad news and invasive surgery, journeyed around the world, purchased land, and turned in resignations
These events run a spectrum from joy to pain, and even in my minimalist efforts, I've held on to some of the items that archive our family's history. Like so many, I have learned some lessons from Marie Kondo, but not everything I keep "sparks joy." Some things remind me of pain. For example, in the photo above are my shoes that I wore about the age that my bio-mom abandoned everyone. The silver spoon and the butterfly pin are from my maternal grandmother, who also bore the painful burden of losing relationship with her daughter. The quilt underneath it all was made from her dresses when she was little. The silver bracelets were given to my twins upon their birth. The pearls that are lying loose in the gifted pewter salt-keeper are from my MIL after my engagement--although they rightfully should have been passed down to my oldest sister-in-law. I accidentally sent them through the wash within a year of receiving them. The wooden bowl belonged to my paternal great-great-grandmother; she made biscuit dough in it. The photos of my paternal grandfather, holding me as a babe, and of his wife, my paternal grandmother, dredge up very different emotional responses. My grandfather was the kindest person I knew in my own family, perhaps the only person who loved me for merely existing. He died suddenly when my twin babes were 10 weeks old. One of the decisions that we made over a decade ago is the reason that he was able to meet the girls before his death. The photograph of my grandmother is a trigger for me. This is the woman who raised me in the absence of my own mother; she was mentally ill and highly emotionally abusive. She left scars on me that will never fade. The baby rattle was purchased for my son, carved by hand from the tree that his namesake is. Most heirlooms are tangibles, but some are less so, like hostas from my great-grandmother's yard in Atlanta that I've planted at various houses I've where I've lived. Very few are intangible and held inside, such as the song that we sing on our anniversary because we danced to it at our wedding.
This January, to celebrate my 44th birthday, my husband purchased the spit kit from Ancestry.com for me. I was holding out for some sort of interesting heritage, like Morracan or Greek, but it all came back tying me to the UK and Northern Europe, just like I thought it would. And then I learned some interesting information: since my ancestors first picked up stakes and settled in the New World, the largest percentage of them have settled in the mid-South, particularly in the state of Tennessee, where I now live. I often chafe about coming back to live in the South and have longed to be from somewhere else: the Pacific Northwest, New Zealand, Scandinavia (I did turn out to be 6% Swedish, so there's that.) But here I am, full-circle in the land of deciduous trees, tornadic springtimes, low-slung ancient mountains, one of the most interesting dialects in the English language, and hot-as-hell summers that I choose to escape every year. It's not what I would choose, but it feels right.
As I made my selections of items for Lucent Gift, I wanted everything to be beautiful, even the consumables. A couple of items, the mastectomy jacket and the ceramic cup were selected for their heirloom quality, one of our core values. One day, a cancer warrior will pass down her cup to a daughter or granddaughter, telling them how she drank herbal tea from it to calm her nausea during treatment. Inevitably, a woman who receives this cup will lose her battle with cancer, and someone else will drink from it, remembering her each time. I like to imagine one of my daughters wearing the multi-purpose garment that I commissioned for our mastectomy jacket, the pockets possibly holding gardening shears or items that she purchases at a farmer's market in another country. The recipients of these items would not choose their story, the part where they battle cancer and sometimes lose. But, if I have anything to do with it, they'll have an heirloom or two they can pass on to others that tell stories of courage, grief, faith, and perseverance for the next generation.