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What is an heirloom? Anything with a good story! One of the items in my Heirloom Vault is a fake rose. Made of silk and pink in color, it lies in a place of honor in the glass case of another more obvious heirloom — a late-1800s desk made by my great-grandfather. After I’m gone, my nieces and godchildren will wonder: Why was this frayed fake flower so important to Aunt Diane?
I’ll tell you why the rose is important in a minute. But before I do, let’s define what an heirloom is. It is an object that was significant to someone. It may also have monetary value, but many an item of significance is worthless except to the person who saved and cherished it. If the story connected with the item is preserved, then these worthless objects may become heirlooms to future generations.
The mystery of the “worthless” fork
Let me tell you what I mean by this. Another item in the desk’s glass case is a fork. It is obviously old, and it came to my mother after her mother died. I helped my mom go through Grandma’s things, and asked what my mother knew about it.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I just know it was Grandma Jensen’s.” Grandma Jensen is my mother’s maternal grandmother. Grandma Jensen died when I was 13, so I got to know her. She had emigrated to America from Denmark as a young woman, as the result of an unsatisfying but mercifully short career as a servant in a Copenhagen household. My grandmother said that Grandma Jensen brought the fork with her. But why? It’s not silver, so we know she didn’t pilfer a fork from the well-to-do household as a souvenir. It’s made of steel, with a black wooden handle. In other words, it holds no value on its own. The story behind it will forever be a mystery. But I cherish it, as did my maternal line before me, as the symbol of how far we have come as a family since Grandma Jensen made her brave decision to leave everything she knew behind for a country where she didn’t speak the language.
The story behind the “worthless” rose
Now the story behind the rose. More than 40 years ago, when my husband and I first started dating, he brought me a gold floral box with six pink roses in it. They were arrayed on a bed of green shavings, the kind you see in Easter baskets, and the box had a cellophane top so you could see the roses inside. I opened the box, expressed my delight, and put them in a vase.
“Aren’t you going to put any water in the vase?” my boyfriend asked, somewhat timidly.
“They don’t need it, because they are made of silk,” I responded. Steve immediately got a stricken look on his face, and apologized for giving me “fake” flowers. I turned and threw my arms around his neck. “But I will be able to keep these flowers forever,” I told him. And then I coyly added, “I’ll keep them as long as you stick around.”
Over the years, one by one, the petals began to fray and the sun faded the color. Six roses became five, then four. By that time, I realized I need to be more careful with them. Steve was going to be around for a while, and after all, a promise is a promise. So, I put away the best of the lot, and the other three went on to adorn the top of wedding gifts, in hopes those marriages would be as happy as ours.
Recently, our one godson shared the sad news that his longtime relationship had come to an end. We reassured him that both of us had been through something similar, and the lessons learned helped us to find each other. He said how much he has admired our marriage, and that he hopes to have a marriage like it someday. He is loving and kind, so I know he will find the perfect partner. So in my Heirloom Vault, I’ll put a note that before someone tosses the pink rose, they should tell Godson the story. Perhaps he will want to keep it, and then another “worthless” item will become an heirloom.
What notes will you leave your loved ones? – OPEN YOUR VAULT NOW