“Grandpa’s Cane and Other Heirlooms,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, 65
Grandmother’s lace tablecloth and a cow bell grandpa used to call the family to prayer—these and other heirlooms often give life to the names on our pedigree charts.
Through heirlooms we remember the stories, interests, talents, and personalities of our ancestors. If you have not begun to create heirlooms in your family, now is the time to begin.
An heirloom can be anything that had special value to the original owner or his posterity. Heirlooms might include handmade items, clothing, personal writings and documents, pictures and personal items. Books, letters, a special handkerchief, or a pocket watch all remind us of our heritage.
In our family room hangs a rusty horse hitch that to anyone else might seem strange or out of place. However, this horse hitch was found at our great grandfather’s homestead and reminds us daily of the struggles and hardships he and his wife endured while raising a family of eight children in the mountains of Wyoming.
An old wooden barometer hangs in my parents’ home and draws the family closer to our grandfather who, during his life, would check its reading first thing each morning. As we grew, each family member would check its current reading on the way to breakfast, getting a glimpse of Grandfather’s daily routine and methodical habits.
In creating and preserving family heirlooms, the stories that make the items treasured should be with them. When I was young my mother gave me some handmade doll clothes. The clothes meant little to me until she told me these clothes were the first articles she learned to sew as a young girl in Holland. Each time I see those simple doll clothes I envision my mother as a young girl and I feel a special kind of closeness.
When preserving heirlooms, keep the following in mind. If possible, add a date and name to every article. If it is made of fabric, keep it clean and avoid storing it in plastic. A museum or library can help you learn the proper way to store fabrics, prints, newspaper articles, or family documents.
Remember to talk about your family treasures. While you build shelves, teach your children how great-grandpa had used that same saw and how he loved to work and build. Talk about the pictures or photographs you have hanging, or the craft items you’ve made. Read favorite books or poems together and talk about why those particular words touch you. At appropriate times give some of these things to others.
You can start creating family heirlooms—now. Start sewing, writing, painting, building, collecting. And most of all start sharing with those you love the memories they’ll never want to forget. Yvonne Dodenbier Miller, Houston, Texas