Posted by on Jul 30, 2012 in Articles, Blog, Photo Gallery, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Your Family’s History In Everyday Things.

A family’s history is tied up in, often, the most everyday items. I own my grandfather’s pocket watch and a photo of him in the early 1900’s…wearing that watch. I also have my father’s certificate of completion of the 8th grade from the 1920’s. But even more “everyday” things hold our family histories…an old pair of shoes, a particular chair where your dad held you on his lap…a shirt. If you take a look around your house, you’ll find things you perhaps take for granted now, but someday may hand over to your children and let them do with it what they like…after all it’s just junk to you right? However, everything has a history and tells a story.

My wife and I recently spent some time at my mother’s house in Illinois. Just an afternoon so grandma could see the kids for a few hours. My mother, of course spent the afternoon spoiling my children. She gave my 3 daughters some hair ribbons and my son a toy truck. My mom is almost 83 and over the years has given me some of my old school papers she’s kept and a few things of my dad’s…he passed away back in the early 80’s. As one gets older, I imagine it’s best to just sort of clean things out and simplify. When I visit my mom’s old house (not the one I grew up in by the way), I like going into mom’s basement to look at what few of my dad’s old tools are still around and to smell the old smells…even look at some of the old newspapers she has used to wrap things or pad into boxes.

As the youngest of 4 and the only boy, I have been given the task of keeping some of the family historical items. I think it’s a good tradition to give the oldest son, the task of being the “keeper of the history” in a family…or at least the historical items. I mentioned my grandfather’s watch, I also have all of my dad’s WWII papers and medals, including the Western Union telegram my grandmother received after dad was shot in the leg..”We regret to inform you…” is how it begins! But, as I mentioned, it isn’t always the most obvious things that hold our family history.

The ol muffin tins dad used to sell door to door.

Just as we were leaving my mom’s house, she said, “Just a minute, I’ve been keeping this for you for a long time, you might be able to use these.” and handed me an old, cardboard box. Inside that box was two, old, beat up muffin tins, the kind you make cupcakes in. I vaguely remember these muffin tins from when I was a little boy, in the 60’s, and mom would make cupcakes in them all the time. They’re nothing special, just obviously old, very used pans. I don’t often do much baking nor does my wife, especially cupcakes and muffins, so I looked a little puzzled and accepted them with a smile and figured, well they’ve obviously been in the family for a while, I’ll just put them in a cupboard. Mom must have seen the look on my face and decided she should give me the complete story of these old pans and why she kept them all these years…and why I might want them.

My mom and dad were married back in 1947. As with most newly weds, things were a bit tight financially and so to make ends meet, my dad drove a taxi and sold pots and pans on the side (see where this is heading?). I NEVER knew that story! My dad and I had a great relationship and talked quite a bit, but the pots and pans career never came out…or if it did, I didn’t listen or forgot it. These old muffin tins were some of what my dad sold. It’s hard for us today, with big box stores and even dollar discount stores selling pans of every size, to conceive of a man in a suit and tie (which dad didn’t like to wear) showing up at the door with muffin tins for sale!

YES! That’s a weee little me on that table in our family kitchen (circa 1963?)

Suddenly, with mom’s story, the old muffin tins came to life and had new meaning and value to me! Not only did mom bake in them all the time, my dad carted them in and out of the car, held them in a displaying fashion and tried to get housewives to buy them. Now I DO like to make a mess in the kitchen from time to time and I have used these old pans to make cornbread muffins for dinner. Every time I use those pans, I like to think about my youth and mom in the kitchen, in her apron, baking with them and of course my dad’s role in their history.

As I look at the old muffin tins or my rock collection which my mom has saved all these years, or even my dad’s old hand saw and hammer (which I use to this day), I think about old times, fond memories and some of my own stuff. Everyday, seemingly, mundane things like a necktie, a pair of headphones, my favorite pen…and I wonder is it junk or a family memory to my children, and should I put it (them) aside to give to them someday along with a background story. We all have these things in our lives and I don’t want to seem like a hoarder, and sometimes junk is just junk, but sometimes a piece of junk is a piece of history.
So take a look around at your everyday things and take care to keep some of them, and remember the story behind those items. Someday, you will want to hand on that item and the history that goes with it.

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