The acorn necklace my sister, Jessie, gave me the Christmas after my mom died is in this twisted, tangled mess of silver chains and baubles. It’s the same kind of necklace my mother wore when she was sick. At that time she told us that the acorn stood for strength, but acorns had been special to her long before she identified with their symbolism. I remember acorn ornaments hanging on the Christmas tree and stories of how my dad used to collect acorns and bring them to my mother when they were dating. To be honest, I don’t personally understand the fascination, but because they were special to my mother, they are special to me.
One would hardly assume I cared about this messy nest of jewelry. They certainly wouldn’t assume that every once in awhile, when I need a dose of strength or sentimentality, I untangle one particular necklace and wear it close to my heart.
This is the “Where’s Mom Now that I Need Her” book my mother gave me when I moved away from home for the first time. The title of this book didn’t seem quite as taunting when she gave it to me. The tattered book is usually found stacked up with cookbooks containing vegetarian recipes, tips on clean eating, and ready-made meals. Anyone who noticed this book in my collection might wonder why I continue to hold onto such a relic, but my mother gave it to me and so I can’t part with it.
In fact, tucked in between the pages of this guide to “surviving away from home” are several folded up sheets of yellow ledger paper, the kind my mother was famous for writing on. These delicate pages contain the recipes of some of my mother’s favorite recipes, most of which I have memorized (“Blushing Bunny” = tomato soup + Velveta + milk; Egg salad = eggs + mustard + Miracle Whip + celery + vinegar + a pinch of salt, pepper, and sugar). Still, every so often I pull the pages out to look at her writing and think “She wrote these words down for me.”
Here is the vacuum cleaner my mother bought me the last Christmas we spent together. My husband has had to fix it a number of times and I’m told that they’ve made many advancements in vacuum cleaner technology, but my mother swore by the Oreck and 10 years later it’s still chugging along.
Here is my china cabinet, with treasures that span several generations. I inherited many of these items after my family sold my grandmother’s house in 2010. Her house always had a certain elegance and enchantment and so did many of her belongings. Now makes me smile to see so many of her things mixed in among my own wedding china and other trinkets.
An object’s history is unknown to most who see it, to them the item they are looking at is just a book or just a plate, just a necklace or just a piece of furniture. But to the owner of the treasure, and to those who understand its context and life story, these items are the threads, glue, and nails that bind the past to the present. They are silent connections, tributes, and reminders that blend our loved one’s past lives with our own life in the present. Like Pinocchio and the Velveteen Rabbit, they are made real, alive, or spiritual because someone who matters (to you or to many) looked upon them, touched them, created them, or treasured them.
Most people have at least one thing they remember their close loved ones by, whether that person died at the age of 85 or 1 year. These items may be small trinkets, antique treasures, old notes, oddities, or worn down vacuum cleaners. Litsa and I would really love to know more about your objects and the stories behind them. In the spirit of normalizing and sharing through photographs and stories, and because we find the life stories of objects to be simply fascinating, we’re asking for people to share a photograph of their object and the story behind it. We’re simply interested in starting a dialogue about objects, however, if enough people share we may follow up to request permission to compile the objects into a larger project to help inspire, educate, and support others. You can share on Facebook, Instagram, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org