Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Birth of A Family Heirloom — by Guest Mom Carrie Lundell

During these past few years, instead of hoarding her cedar chest full of family heirlooms, my mother has started giving them as Christmas gifts. It has made for some pretty intense White Elephant gift exchange games with alliances to match any Survivor season. That's how I won the gorgeous bowl you see above.

It's THE popcorn bowl. The one my family used every Sunday night when we gathered together to watch "That's Incredible", the "Disney Movie of the week", or "Ripley's Believe it or Not". It's has no real monetary value, but the Christmas it came into my possession might have been one of the best Christmases ever. Now, it's OUR popcorn bowl, the one my kids eat out of every time we watch a movie together. I couldn't be happier.

So what makes something become a family heirloom anyway? The old beat up popcorn bowl has taught me expense has nothing to do with it, and for all you non-crafters out there, it also doesn't need to be homemade. What I think family heirlooms must have are:

1. A personal/time factor. This can either be time a person spent making the item, or time a person spent using the item. The popcorn bowl is a perfect example. It played (and is still playing) a huge part in our family movie tradition.

2. A story. Without a story, an heirloom loses its value to a family very quickly.

When my father left to join the Air Force, he told his girlfriend to date around. She did, but quickly realized she wanted to wait for him to come back home. As soon as he got the letter stating as much, he mailed her an engagement ring. During those years my father was stationed overseas, he wrote his fiance many letters as she waited for him to return. And when he got home, she was still waiting and they got married. You can't imagine the joy I felt after hearing this story as a teenager and then finding the old stack of letters in our cedar chest addressed to my mom. I made my mom promise those love letters would be mine someday.

Remember the stories. Share the stories. Record the stories. They are almost as valuable as the family heirlooms themselves. And remember, family heirlooms always have a beginning. Be aware of the heirlooms that are being born in your own family right now.

I would love to hear about everyone else's treasured, yet unusual family heirlooms. Please share!

Find more of Carrie at This Momma Makes Stuff.

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Blogger Kelly @ Dare to be Domestic said...

SO touching!!! It's little things like this that mean the most! ox

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Barchbo said...

My parents bought and refinished antiques throughout my childhood. Some of my favorite pieces are ones that my parents got from elderly relatives, purchased from garage sales, or bought at barn sales.

The player piano that my folks salvaged from Great-aunt Agnes
redid is a fave. I remember going that day to pick it up...and it makes me hungry for her windmill cookies when I think about it.

PS: I would love to have the letters that my parents wrote each other while my dad was in Viet Nam. I am asking for those next weekend when I visit them!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 1:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger gr8fl said...

We live far from our immediate family but I wanted my daughters to know their rich ancestry- so I begged my mom to send out copies of old family fotos and we made a family tree wall in our foyer that traces their four generations in photographs - with our immediate family in the center- my girls are thrilled to point out their great great grandpa or great grandma and that history helps them to feel connected to a larger world.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 2:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Chloe said...

I LOVE the love letter story - I've never heard that about your parents! I'm fortunate to have inherited many family heirlooms that are now in my home, whether pieces of furniture, the odd lamp or plate, a framed picture here and there - the point is that they all MEAN something. They all mean family. They are significant to me, to my family, to my upbringing. They have a story attached. Isn't that what family heirlooms are all about anyway?

Thanks for sharing :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 2:35:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

My favorite heirloom or memory is the hundreds of "Love is" comic strips that my father cut out of the paper for a year and then gave to my mother. Since my father passed away when I was very young, they hold special significance. I framed some of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 5:22:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kage said...

FOOD: cape cod potato chips, peanut butter hershey kiss cookies, shake n bake on pork chops, chicken-flavored rice a roni, spaghetti with ground beef mixed into original ragu sauce, orange rolls, Christmas morning's sweet roll wreath, a recipe from my great grandma Mabel, shelled red pistacios. A tradition I carried on this year: milk chocolate chip rice krispie treats for the first day of school's after-school snack...my mom started that!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 5:39:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Leigh @ compactbydesign said...

Definitely a theme close to my heart, my family is known for loving our heirlooms. Some of them are of great beauty and value (china, silver, candelabras) and some are just the pieces that we have loved for generations and want to keep on loving - certain candies, particular cereal bowls, a bizarre Santa Claus collection!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 6:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Petit Elefant said...

I love LOVE that you have those letters! It's probably the stuff from D.I. with happy memories that I want when my parents die.

Also, the Disney Movies on Sunday night? I miss those days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 6:43:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Morgan said...

I miss those Sunday Disney movies too! It was a family staple in my house.
I also have a huge stack of letters that my grandparent wrote to each other before they were married while my grandfather was fighting in Europe in WWII.
I also get my grandmother's engagement and wedding ring. I have tiny fingers like her, so I was the only one who could fit in them. It doesn't even have real diamonds in it, but I don't care. One of them should hopefully be on my finger soon! ;)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 8:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger michelle said...

My grandmother's costume jewelry, which my daughters now play with and I wear on occasion; my late father's neck tie, which my husband has worn when he has blessed/christened our daughters; four of my husband's favorite drinking glasses from his childhood that we now drink juice out of; my grandmother's stitched artwork; my grandfather's painting...

the best though are the STORIES. I was pregnant with my firstborn when my father was passing away, and he made me promise to tell my children all about him so they would know him one day.

p.s. I totally need to get a giant popcorn bowl.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 8:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger This is Carrie said...

Kelly - Thanks for being first to comment! I felt the love.

Barchco - Sounds like your parents and I would really get along. Barn sales? Never found any of those in So Cal. Good luck procuring those letters.

gr8fl - I love your family tree idea. My mom has made something similar in large frames for all my brothers and sisters. But not me. That's what I get for being the youngest.

chloe - Family heirlooms are so much more valuable when there is a story. The stories are what really can leave us feeling connected to family members that we may have never even known.

Rebecca - Wow. How awesome. Love the way you framed those sweet little scraps of love. What a keepsake. One of my posts this week is going to be about how to get keepsakes out of the closet and "use" them. What a perfect example.

Kage - Love your list of heirloom foods. We have a soup recipe in our family that is called "Grandma Soup". I've never known it's real name and I don't care to.

leigh - The bizarre Santa Claus collection sounds very intriguing.

Petit elefant - Well, I don't have the letters yet, but I do know they actually have my name on them but also instructions that allow any of my brothers and sisters to xerox copy them first. My mom-such a planner.

Morgan - Aren't love letters great! Especially these days when conversation has been reduced to 140 characters and tech-induced short hand. Hope the ring finds it's way to your finger soon!

Michelle - I love how you've integrated special family heirlooms into your family's life, allowing their meaning and value to grow exponentially. And everyone needs a large popcorn bowl.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 10:46:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Kage said...

I have a movie list too, and it's been fun to start introducing them to my girls as they get older. THis summer was SUMMER MAGIC... I can't wait until we get to GONE WITH THE WIND!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 4:12:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tauni said...

What a lovely post. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 6:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Michelle said...

Oh my gosh. I love that you remember "That's Incredible." I bring it up with people and they look at me like I'm a crazy person! I LOVED Sunday nights! (I love that bowl, by the way, and the stories are even better!

Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 11:09:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Minister Grace said...

I have this same bowl.... and I love it. I use it for popcorn also because the bottom is rounded and it teeters when placed on the table... I got mine at a thrift store and had to have it because my mom served a salad every night with our supper and used a metal bowl that is somewhat similar.... Anyways. I love browsing your blog for great ideas.... keep 'em rolling.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 11:43:00 PM EDT  

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