I broke another one of Grandma’s china plates. And from the heavens I could hear the collective groaning of my ancestors, lamenting that they had left me in charge of the family heirlooms.
I, too, have wondered why so many of the antiques that have been in my family for more than a century were passed down to me. I don’t think it was necessarily that I was deemed the family favorite (pretty sure of that), although I am the oldest of several siblings and cousins. But at the time that everybody died, my sisters were moving around, my cousins weren’t interested and I happened to have a garage.
So I stored these things for several years — the china and silverware my grandmothers, mother and aunts received as wedding gifts and were taken out only on special occasions. The old rocking chairs, the bureaus, the record player — items that don’t have a lot of financial value, but are treasures mainly for the memories of the people I love who have gone on to glory.
But I’m not a sentimental type and I also don’t like clutter. So, rather than being an honor for having these gifts bestowed on me, they began to feel more like millstones around my neck. And I wondered: What is the use of inheriting family heirlooms just to keep them boxed up in the attic?
Finally, I decided that if family heirlooms were going to take up space, they might as well be put to use. It was a little unnerving at first using the special china for weeknight frozen pizza. I remember setting the table with this dinnerware on Thanksgiving under the watchful eye of my grandmother who instructed me on the precise location of every plate and utensil — something I never understood. Why use three forks for dinner, salad and dessert when most people are confused about which is which and it just makes more dishes to clean up afterwards?
I got over my hesitation, however, and starting using “the good dishes” every day. And, just like the everyday dishes I also use, I started breaking a few pieces — a china cup here and there, a mangled fork, a bent spoon, a shattered dinner plate.
It has always been assumed that one day I would pass along some of these treasures to my own children or nieces and nephews, none of whom seem interested in them now. They have their own homes and want new stuff. On the other hand, that may not be a problem because at the rate I’m going there won’t be much left to pass along.
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.