family treasures

“Bergaporten (The Entrance in the Mountain)” by John Bauer
(a guardian of family treasures?)

The real continuity, what we truly love and cherish, is not confined in the forms. And perhaps there is something infinitely freeing in letting all these relics go. Perhaps holding onto our family treasures is actually painful. Because we know deep down that we are holding onto dust. We are clinging to nothing at all. And yet, at the same time, it is beautiful to have things in my life now that were there in my childhood, things my mother and father cherished and touched, things they found beautiful.

Sometimes people feel obligated to keep family treasures that they don’t actually want. My mother was great that way. She told me repeatedly, “These are my things, from my journey, and you don’t need to keep any of them you don’t want.”

~ Joan Tollifson
(Death: The End of Self-Improvement)

34 thoughts on “family treasures”

  1. Sigh. I have many family treasures and I believe everyone wanted me to keep them so as I’ve let the family treasures go, as I have been during this pandemic, I feel slightly guilty. My rational mind understands I don’t like or need this stuff, but I can’t help feeling like I’ve done something wrong. And, of course, there is still much more to go through. To deal with…

    1. The time spent letting stuff go has increased for me during the pandemic, too. I find myself wondering if I will finish before my self-quarantine ends. (I have my doubts but I’m shooting for that.) I know exactly what you mean about those guilty feelings! The hardest thing for me so far, a few years ago, was when I had my great-grandmother’s baby grand piano hauled away…

        1. Yes, it took up a lot of room and nobody played it. Even when it was in my grandparents’ house nobody played it. It seems my great-grandmother was the only one who ever played it, which is probably why my grandfather cherished it. But now that he is gone the memories he held are gone, too, it was time to let it go. The guilty feeling has dissipated and the freed-up space has been put to good use.

  2. I have discarded many family treasures. I kept a few that truly are something special to me. I prefer displayed photos of those I loved and have lost. It is always hard to let go of the past.

    1. I treasure portraits of our ancestors, too. I’ve put many of them in nice frames and arranged some on the shelves of my grandmother’s mahogany secretary, and larger ones hanging on the long wall of the guest room. And labels on the backs of them for future generations…

  3. If you wondered, Bergaporten means simply The entrance in the mountain. When i was small, I used to read John Bauer’s fairytales, and loved his illustrations more than the tales He was Swedish, but much loved in Norway too

    1. I did wonder! I was so annoyed with Google Translate, every time I submitted Bergaporten it translated it as Bergaporten. Thank you so much for letting me know!!! John Bauer and Kay Nielsen are my favorite illustrators. I loved “East of the Sun & West of the Moon” when I was little. I still have my childhood copy.

  4. This picture reminded me, for what reason I don’t know (maybe the little troll-like character), of an illustration which could be from The Hobbit, which I read recently. Then I read Leelah’s comment about the meaning of Bergaporten … 🙂

    “Things my mother and father cherished and touched” … yes, I have a few of those family treasures, and I won’t part with them, even though they are no use to me. You’re a family historian, Barbara, so I think you will understand why. <3

    1. John Bauer would have been a perfect choice to illustrate “The Hobbit.” 🙂

      Yes, I have kept many family treasures, and letting most of the others go has made room for the kept ones to be more fully appreciated. Standing in the corner of my bedroom by my dresser for the past seven years is my father’s carved-wood cane. He cherished it and used it for years and told us that his father had carved it. When we tried to convince him that a walker would give him more stability while walking he resisted our efforts and insisted on sticking with his cherished cane. I get it now! (Who knows? I might make use of it some day!)

  5. I did enjoy reading Joan’s book and kinda remember this quote. As a minimalist it’s been probably easier for me to let things go. But you know what’s hardest to let go? Words, letters, notes. Guess that shows I cherish writing more than objects. Usually. Btw, the picture is so provocative!

    1. I loved Joan’s book, too, and because of my ongoing culling project these words jumped out at me. Isn’t that a great illustration?

      Yes, letters and cards are hard for me, too — and books. For books, I finally decided to keep just the ones that had been inscribed. But I still have lots of books, lovingly signed and dated and given as gifts. For letters, I’ve been putting them in acid-free sheet/page protectors and organizing them into loose-leaf notebooks. Same with birth and death and marriage records. Sometimes I think they might be thrown out by the next generation anyway, but you never know…

  6. All of my mother’s and grandmother’s china and crystal I have. I try to use it when we had friends or family for dinner, but everyone wants more casual. Hard to let these family treasures go though.

    1. Since my grandmother’s china was probably not dishwasher-safe I decided to donate it, BUT, I kept one dinner plate, a small covered dish, and a small pitcher. I took three similar pieces from Tim’s grandmother’s china and arranged them all on a shelf behind glass in the living room. We have the pleasant childhood memories of the patterns on display without taking up too much storage space!

      1. Will I do that one of these days? The china pattern is so beautiful – unlike anything they make these days. My son wanted his great-grandmother’s silver, which is great. My daughter, as much as she’s sentimental, will probably not want any of this. 🙁

        1. Sounds to me like you love the china for two reasons, its unique beauty AND its sentimental value. Those seem like “keep it” reasons to me! It obviously gives you much joy to cherish it. Even if nobody wants it in the future you will have enjoyed its beauty and the memories for a time. ♡ (And you don’t need a family gathering to use it, maybe a special dinner now and then for yourself and your guy?)

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. Joan Tollifson writes about nonduality and present moment awareness. I go to her books again and again when I need centering.

  7. This is such a wise excerpt. I’ve come across her writing before but maybe it is time to buy one of her books…speaking of accumulating things….
    It is very hard to let go of things. My grandmother had promised me her beautiful furniture but my mother carted her off to a nursing home and got rid of all those beautiful things behind all of our backs. I’m still shocked, years later.

    1. Oh Melissa, that must have been such an awful shock! It’s incongruous how some of us get saddled with things we don’t want and then others have their family treasures snatched away from them. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      My mother died before my grandparents did so I have no idea how she might have handled the distribution of their treasures. I hope I’ve been sensitive to my children’s desires, so far they seem happy with what they’ve received.

      1. Thank you Barbara. I don’t know why I just blurted all that out but you are so kind. I have no doubts in my mind that you handled it with great sensitivity. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your mother.

        1. I’m sure it must still be a very painful memory for you. Thank you, it was 29 years ago that she died and it took me many years to think of my mother without a flood of grief. She was only 59, younger than I am now. Time finally did its work, though, and I’ve at long last come to terms with my loss.

  8. I agree on keeping the family treasures intact Barbara … in my case, I have no one to pass them along to. My grandmother kept a photo album of those precious few photos taken of her parents and my mom as she was growing up. She gave the photo album to my mom when she married and left home. I am grateful for that – the photo of my grandparents and mom that you commented on the other day is one of those photos and they are remarkably preserved considering that picture was 94 years old, with nary a tear, smudge or any fading (I did not alter the photo as I have no picture enhancing tools) … that amazes me.

    I’ve wanted to write a post on old china and will do so one day in my blog. My grandmother tried to get me interested in collecting bone china teacups/saucers and bought me two sets which I still have. Not being a tea drinker, I have them in a cabinet, high up and away for safekeeping. The operative word here is “saving” versus “using” … my mom and I both loved cardinals. One year we splurged and bought two Lennox Winter Greetings mugs just to use at Christmastime for our hot drinks. We have used and I continue to use stoneware dishes/mugs, all which will likely last the rest of my life as they are pretty and durable. When it came time to use those pretty mugs, my mom, (who switched to tea from coffee later in life due to heartburn), said “I can’t use the cup and make tea stains … I use bleach/water in my cups now to keep stains from forming. We’ll save them … admire them, but not use them.” So that is what we did. Now, I look up in the cupboard, there they sit, the beautiful cups and I’m not sure I want to use them, her words ringing in my ears- I have to change my mindset, but it is difficult to do so. So one day, I’ll do what the late Erma Bombeck suggested – enjoy things in the here and now. Here is the piece if you’ve never read it:

    1. You’re lucky to have well preserved photos to hold dear. I have a few, but most are not in great shape. I’ve done some detective work and have identified some of the mystery people, but after giving it a good try I wind up tossing the ones I cannot figure out. They are meaningless to us although I’m sure they meant something to someone once upon a time.

      I switched to glass tea mugs so I wouldn’t have to deal with tea stains on cups. Wish I had glass teeth! I can’t live without my tea. I love that you keep your cardinal mugs for the memories they hold. If I know what something meant to someone, I’m likely to keep it. If it’s just an object found in the attic or barn and I don’t know the story behind it I just cannot see the sense in keeping it. My husband’s cousin has a glass eye that belonged to one of her ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Now I can see keeping that! She has his sword and uniform, too.

      I loved Erma Bombeck! I used to laugh out loud when I read her column, and then later, her books. Are you on GoodReads?

      1. My great-grandmother had a plate shelf around her kitchen and she had decorative plates on it with a small railing holding them in place. So I have a turquoise plate from her collection which sits on my corner cabinet shelf. It may be very old, but there is really nothing remarkable about it to peg it as a vintage plate. She also had a small china cup with an angel in it that I also have for safekeeping. My mom was close to her grandmother. The glass eye is interesting.

        I loved Erma Bombeck too – her columns were very funny. I bought my mom the “If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?” book for Mother’s Day one year. I am not on GoodReads – maybe when retired and I have time to read. I just Googled for that article to send you the link. I have a Rubbermaid tub of pocketbooks my mom read downstairs, but I never got to read yet and more books upstairs that neither of us read … we kept them separated that way of what she had already read as you can’t always tell at a glance. Last Fall I bought six books and got three read as I made myself sit and read them over long holidays. I need to step away from the computer more but am not successful doing so. I still have not touched the other three. I look forward to retirement and having time to read again as I really miss it.

        1. I have trouble reading these days, for some reason, it puts me to sleep now. Reading was definitely my thing when I was younger. I miss those days of stealing an afternoon, letting the kids fend for themseves once in a while, to read a book that I just couldn’t put down. Now that I have plenty of time I can’t seem to stay awake! I finally figured out that I might be getting tired because I was having trouble finding the next line of text when I finished the line before it. So now when I read I put a piece of paper under the line I’m reading and move it down as I go along. It has sped things up a bit. Not sure why this is happening but my guess is that it’s age related somehow…

          1. My problem is that I nod off and I have done that in the afternoon, in the evening – often at work, even proofreading my own posts. All of a sudden, the words run together. I’d say it was because I took a very long walk, but it has happened on a rainy day when I didn’t set foot outside the house. I know the feeling of having a book you just can’t put down … you read another chapter, then another. That’s a good author. I think I spend too much time in front of a computer screen and that’s not good for my eyes, though when I (reluctantly) went to the eye doctor this Summer I was sure I’d need stronger glasses but I did not. not on the ones I use all day (I have a pair I wear outside that are tinted and they needed new lenses as the prescription was three years old.) I know computer use is not good for your eyes and I have a blue tint of some kind put on my lenses which is supposed to be easier on the eyes. I figured eye strain for me was getting older (I am 64). My mother had a page magnifier she used when she got older. She laid it over the page and was easier to read some paperback books where it was a smaller typeface.

          2. I guess as we age we have to keep making adjustments to find ways to keep on reading! (I’m 63.) So far my glasses work well for small print, but sometimes I get eye strain, too. Sigh…

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