Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m a succor for heirlooms. I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about having something that belonged to your grandparents, or great grandparents, or great-great grandparents that you know they loved and cared about and took great care of…good enough to last the test of time and make it into your home.
I have several pieces of furniture and China sets that have been handed down and I care about and am very careful with all of them. We eat off the antique China at only the fanciest dinners and I don’t allow any marring thing to come close to the furniture.
My prized item is a small, old end table. It isn’t incredibly fancy, but the reason I love it so much is because my grandfather on my mom’s side found it in pieces in a dumpster sometime during the 1950s. He stopped and gathered it all up, brought it home, and pieced it back together.
I knew my grandma, but never my grandpa, and so this piece of furniture means a lot to me. Maybe some might think that something like this table wouldn’t mean as much to me because I never knew him, but when I was in elementary school and throughout junior high, I carried around a picture I clipped from a magazine of an old man playing golf and I put it in my wallet. When people asked (and sometimes before they asked) I told them he was my grandpa.
I never knew one, not on either side of my family, but I always wanted one. So my little end table, to me, is proof that I had a grandpa. He was real and he was cool – cool enough to see the potential of a broken end table and cool enough to restore it into something that has lasted throughout his lifetime and now it sits in my entry way.
I just love it.
Well, we recently moved and one of my biggest stresses came from all of these heirlooms – my treasured antiques. We had so many wonderful people helping us and I tried not to cringe as they carried out my boxes of bubble-wrapped family knick-knacks. I wasn’t able to carry anything to the moving truck or even be in the truck to oversee how things were being loaded. I felt pretty helpless and I didn’t want anything chipped or broken or even squished. As they moved on to the larger, un-bubble-wrapped, furniture items, I gave strict orders to handle with care and wrap them in one, no two, no four moving blankets so they didn’t get injured in the 30 minute drive between the old house and the new house…
My heart about stopped when a couple of ladies picked up the small wooden end table my grandpa fished out of the dumpster. I must have verbalized something I don’t remember because they both set it down quickly and held up their hands in innocence. I started to tell them to be extra careful, be extra cautious, and use extra blankets for that one. I told them how my grandpa restored it and it was so special to him and to my grandma and to my mom and to me and it had lasted so long and…
Then someone interrupted my rant and time seemed to stop as my heart was seized by the grandpa I never knew. What he said was heard only by me, but was loud enough to drown out the mistaken impressions I’d had about what was important to him. I understood the truth about his reality, his coolness, and his focus as I heard these words in my mind: I don’t care about that. I care about you.
Amid all the commotion of boxes and people walking back and forth and with these two ladies still staring, it dawned on me that all of these heirlooms and antiques were really just stuff to assist my grandparents and great grandparents in living…but I was what they lived for. I was what they cared about. And I am still what they care about.
The end table made it safely, unscathed, to our new house. As did the rest of our “stuff.” But, ever so much more importantly, I made it. And my family made it. And here we are, in our new house, enjoying our stuff and the stuff passed down to us from grand people who lived grand lives for grand purposes. The proof that they existed might sit in our living room, but the proof that they loved sits in our hearts.
And just like them, we can understand that our stuff is just stuff to assist us to live. We don’t have to live for our stuff. We can care a little less about broken dishes and care a little more about the breakers. We can spend a little less time on our phones and a little more time with the people whose faces take up all the space inside our picture gallery we’ll someday get around to uploading…
Because, someday, someone, somewhere will be moving something that once belonged to us. They might be frazzled and freaking out, telling people to wrap it once, no twice in blankets before it gets onto the truck. They’re sure we cared about it. It was proof that we lived. And if we could seize their heart with one message, what would it be?
I think you know.
So let’s make sure that is what’s passed down – the truth about our reality, our coolness, and our focus. This message that can’t be boxed or wrapped in any blanket or moved on any truck, but can move wherever they go and wrap them in the proof that we lived and loved…them.
Keep on Rollin’,