I’m so excited to kick off another new series called Heirloom.
The concept for the Heirloom series came to me after my mother passed down a ring to me. She always knew I loved that ring more than any other piece of jewelry she had and once her and my dad got divorced she started passing down her jewelry to me, my sister, and my brother (to give to his wife).
I always think about the ring and how if my house was on fire — what I would run back in to get if I could (besides people and animals)? This ring was high on the list of most important things I own that are very special to me. I’m not a super sentimental person — I throw a lot of things out. I live in big city in a small apartment — I don’t have room to keep a bunch of stuff. So what I do keep is special to me.
While I was thinking about the items that are special to me over the years I’ve also thought a lot about heirlooms in general. I read this article in the Washington Post and felt like it described me and the trend perfectly. At the time my dad’s parents were downsizing and passing down all of their china and serving items to me and my siblings. Honestly — there wasn’t much I wanted. I have lovely memories of summers and vacations with my grandparents, and photos that are hilarious to look back at — I didn’t need a bunch of fragile stuff that I would just store and never use.
But I’m always one to play a bit of devil’s advocate. Would our generation regret throwing everything out or not taking some items our family wanted to give us? As a generation, we might be more focused on experiences and living in the moment vs. collecting things (which I think is good) but will we ever regret not taking a few heirlooms, or will we purchase things ourselves to pass down that we feel are meaningful?
It seems like my generation (borderline Gen X/Millennial) grew up in the mass market era. The Target era. Anything you want, you just buy it. If it’s expensive, there’s probably a dupe of it somewhere you can get for a fourth of the price. How many of us have actually saved up for something really special? Something you’ve wanted for years. I’m asking — have you ever really saved up for anything?
There are a few purchases I’ve made over the years, sometimes with the help of gift certificates or birthday money, of things I thought long and hard about due to their cost (years even!). These Acne boots, this AllSaints leather jacket, these Alexander Wang heels. I’ve bought a few pieces of expensive jewelry in the $200-$300 range, but nothing like a real jewelry investment that was thousands of dollars — diamonds, gold, etc. But it is something I want to do.
Diane von Furstenberg once said that she buys jewelry to signify an important moment or achievement in her life — and I like that concept. I have bought a few things (mostly rings) while traveling that are special to me. They weren’t thousands of dollars, but they remind me of the wonderful experiences I had, and they are beautiful to wear.
I wonder about our generation — do we invest in items that we would deem worthy enough to pass down to our children or important people in our lives? If not yet, will we get to a point where we will invest in valuable things, items that are special to us, like people did years ago?
Waterford is something that a lot of people in my family collect. My mom’s side is Irish, Waterford was started in Ireland, and it’s just something that my grandparents have collected and now my mom and some of her siblings also collect as well. When my grandfather died last year my mom was telling me about how my grandfather would always buy Waterford when she was growing up — sort of as an investment.
Now my grandparents have a large collection of Waterford and my grandma is not afraid to use it. Same with my mom, every time I’m drinking wine when I’m home in Kansas City we are usually drinking out of Waterford. Because why not!?! My family feels like — yes it’s special — but it should also be used. When my friends come over sometimes it makes them nervous to use it, but my entire family is just sitting around drinking wine out of Waterford on a Tuesday — and that’s normal. Family time is always a special occasion.
So do I want some of the family Waterford passed down to me — absolutely. I love it, I will use it. We all have things we love that are special to us for whatever reason. I personally don’t want to store a bunch of stuff, so I only want a few of the things that are really special to me.
Even though (my husband and I think) we don’t want kids (and I’m 34 now and have been married for 12 years, so I think it’s safe to say it’s a possibility that my switch may never flip) I still think collecting a few special things that either are already heirlooms or will become heirlooms is special and I’ll pass the items down to my nieces and nephews if we never have kids.
So all of this thinking about the heirlooms I personally own, the ones I hope to own, the items I want to purchase at some point that would become heirlooms, and the topic of heirlooms and how younger generations feel about them — was the inspiration for this new series.
In this series I will be exposing the stories of special heirlooms. Not just any heirlooms — but heirlooms that have a story. There are lots of heirlooms out there that are meaningful to people and have been passed down in families and that’s great — but my other special heirlooms are probably not very interesting to all of you. So I will be sharing the heirlooms that have some sort of interesting story to go along with them. They aren’t necessarily long stories but good stories.
And I’ll start with my own — stay tuned for the story of my mother’s ring.
Submit your interesting heirloom story for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Heirloom — Your Name.