Tuesday, September 9, 2008


How important are family heirlooms, anyway? Why do some people hang onto them and others don't give a rip? (Why does my hubby just hang onto EVERYTHING, heirloom or not? Oh wait...that's a blog topic for another night. Remind me to tell you about the '69 Ford truck that lives in our BASEMENT.....)

I had a discussion with my awesome, wonderful, terrific, out-of-this-world online Contemporary Literature students tonight about family heirlooms. I didn't go into as much depth as I wanted to, but I got more out of them than I ever had before.

We were discussing the play The Piano Lesson by August Wilson. I had never read it before I was assigned to teach this class, and I would like to analyze it more thoroughly. The main conflict of the play is between a brother and sister over an heirloom piano that has intricate carvings of their ancestors (who were slaves) on the legs of the piano. The brother wants to sell the piano for an exorbitant amount of money and buy some land so he can have his own farm; the sister wants to keep it in the family, even though she doesn't even play it anymore.

I used to keep EVERYTHING. Scraps of paper, mementos, pictures, ribbons....... I remember when I was about 14 and I had to get stitches in my head while I was on a church mission trip to West Virginia. ("But I WASN'T horseplaying! I just jumped on his back and he straightened up!") Instead of going to a family doctor to have the stitches removed when I got home (because I'm certain we didn't HAVE a family doctor), my sister snipped them and removed them herself. I was so darn proud of those stitches. I was going to keep them. In a scrapbook. Give me a large personal break. I held them in the palm of my hand and showed them off to my brother (the same guy who had put me in the dryer at the laundromat several years before.....you'd think I would learn). He took one look and said "Neat." And blew them. Into the carpet. Which was a salt-and-pepper shag. (Come with me for a moment back to the 70s.)

I have had some very memorable heirlooms. My birthstone is a diamond, and my mother had promised me from an early age that I could have her diamond engagement ring when I turned 16. I think my father finally bought her a diamond after she asked for a divorce. I don't know what the rush was, they had only been married 17 years or something. Anyway, I could not wait for the day I got that ring. I wore it proudly (on my right hand, or Mom would have broken my fingers and rendered the ring completely superfluous).

When I got married, we took the diamond from that ring and had it reset into a more contemporary ring for my engagement ring. I wore it proudly. Through a couple of marriages. Whatever. When Sweet Girl turned 16, I gave it to her, because being the world's last perfect man, hubby bought me a new one. I don't know if she even knows where it is. It's set in yellow gold, and she "doesn't like yellow gold" (please insert whiny voice and extreme wrinkling of the nose here).

This past summer hubby bought me yet another ring, this one with three diamonds. Being somewhat of a slow learner, I offered my marquis-shaped solitaire to Sweet Girl. Who said, "Why don't you just keep it?" (insert same wrinkling of nose, but without the whiny voice).

I don't get it. Is it just the age? I frequently describe her as 24 going on 12. Is it the generation? Or am I just an old fuddy-dud? I didn't expect her to do back flips over it or anything. I told her she could take the diamond and have it reset now, maybe into a pendant or something, or she could keep it until the day she gets engaged and use it somehow then. But she didn't even WANT it. She kind of tossed the box on the sofa and went back to her video game/television/puppy watching. It didn't really hurt my feelings (maybe I'm used to this by now?), but I certainly was puzzled. I'm thinking seriously about giving it to my step-daughter. That's probably more appropriate anyway, since it was HER father who bought it for me. She can either do one of the above things or save it for HER daughter, who is 13. It's okay to act 13 when you're actually 13.

Sometime I'll tell the story about losing my diamond ring.....and how I got it back.

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