backpost: on heirlooms

This was originally posted on August 7, 2010 at Moved here to save in case of losing that domain.

My family is somewhat unusual.

I say that of course, realizing that it is completely usual in it’s unusual-ness. My family is really not that strange and confusing, and just like everyone else’s family, it is filled with random members that collect hurricane shelters full of tinned yams and horde wood for y2k. It also has (just like everyone else) a quartet of organ-players, a banjo-soloist, a tarzan impersonator, a unicyclist, a zebra collector, a fraud specialist, and some Australians.

The thing about my family is that we really don’t have that many heirlooms. Some people have heirlooms up the yin-yang! Some people have hutches and desks and cabinetry built by their great-great-grandfer on the prairies of Oregon and hand-crocheted cat-ear cozies crafted crazily for a crotchety kitten who crankily crammed their cute meta-carpals into his craw.

It’s not like I’m jealous.

But my family is severely lacking in heirlooms. We haven’t been close to my paternal Grandparents in my lifetime. My maternal Grandmother began suffering from Altzheimer’s when I was about seven, so even my memories of her are tainted with memory loss, both of hers and my own.

I was twelve when she died, and not old enough to understand the desire to preserve trinkets and memories. I am left with photographs of her as my heirlooms. I love them! Seeing her as a young woman makes me feel like maybe I did know her, in a somewhat metaphorical way.

My Grandpa remarried a few years later, to an old friend of the family he reconnected with at my Grandmother’s death. I never identified with her, but now I wish I had tried harder to get to know her. She passed away this spring, and we have been slowly helping Grandpa weed through her possessions and send them off to her relations.

The entire time they were married, she had a collection hanging on her wall.

A collection of spoons.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. In fact, I thought the same thing when I first saw them. “Oh my gosh. SPOONS. How typically old-lady! What a silly thing to collect. I mean, SPOONS.”

If I knew how to triple-underscore and draw skulls and cross-bones around a word like I would in the notes I’d pass around school in the 7th grade in HTML, I would do so. That would fully-articulate the true disdain and hatred I felt whenever I saw them hanging on the dining-room wall.


I hated them. And honestly, as a 16 year old whose Grandpa re-married to a woman who had never had children of her own, no-less, I found that woman and her spoons to be-less-than-fantastic.

When she died earlier this spring, and Grandpa started sorting out through the last of her possessions, I knew the spoons would end up at a thriftstore.

When I visited his house, Grandpa would trot out many items of hers and offer them to me. I turned most of them down. He finally offered me her collector’s spoons.

They stared at me. Silver and tarnished, covered in plastic, embossed and emblazoned with words and names of places. I realized that she had travelled the world with her spoons, and had no one to look after them.

I hadn’t recieved anything from my grandmother, so it’s not like I had an issue with competing storage space. And the spoons… the spoons with their windmills and tarnished silver camels and necks covered in wildflowers… they were kinda cool.

In fact, oh hey! That one has a windmill that spins! And a cuckoo-clock that dangles! Oh wow, yeah I forgot she was a missionary in Bolivia… and she even went to Vatican City!

I suddenly was overwhelmed with this strange and fulfilling need to keep her heirlooms, as a substitute for my own. As a collector and a person who finds happiness in collecting things, the concept of leaving behind my favourite items without someone to value them too is pretty heartbreaking.

So I agreed to take the spoons, to everyone on the planet’s shock and awe.

And I love them.

The collection is rather large (to me!). I think I am now the proud owner of 30+ spoons from various places around the world. These are just my favourites to share right now.

I love seeing all the places she has been, and have even… started collecting a few of my own.

Here and there, you know, to commemorate big trips. Not anything… excessive.

They are spoons, after all.


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