Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Adventures in Finding Family Treasures



Spring cleaning is all over my blog reader. Everyone is opening up the windows, tossing out old prescriptions and redoing their filing after tax season. I did some spring cleaning of another type this weekend. My grandmother passed away a few years ago and now that my step-grandfather has moved to be closer to his children, the house that my mom grew up in is needs of cleaning out and getting ready to sell.

We spent three days going through each of the three bedrooms, the large living area with the dining room table/kitchen cabinets/curio cabinet that takes up a whole wall and has an amazing treasure trove of finds, plus the living room with the huge pottery pieces, and the extremely large RV garage in the backyard that had humpback trunks and shelves stacked to the rafters.

Needless to say, it was a long weekend.

It was me, my husband, my mom and my cousin (the only child of my only aunt). Lots of stories were told when certain things were brought out of boxes and we took each space piece by piece. There were three options – sell, keep or trash. Most of the things were pretty easy to figure out if they were trash or keep. One of us would make a sound or look longingly at the crystal from the dining room or a particular book, and that was that. We put all of our particular treasures into a pile in the living room to keep them separate from the rest of the house where the sold items stayed. Then at the end of the weekend, we edited our keep pile. I ended up with so much crystal, I put a few pieces back. One only needs a crystal serving bowl, a decorate blue crystal bowl, a celery server, a deviled egg plate and a vase. Any more than that would be silly, right?

Some of the only “fights,” if you could even call them that, were over a few of the humpback trucks in the garage and of course, those darn deviled egg plates. Grandma only had two and of course all three of us wanted them! It seemed like I ended up with a lot of things because “we entertain more often” – like the 40 cup silver coffee percolator that will come home with us the next time we’re in Kansas City. So now we definitely need to have a dinner party to use all of those things!

But the best part of the weekend was finding all of Grandma’s correspondence. She and Grandpa traveled a great deal in their time, from Grandpa going to Korea in the service and then all over the country and Mexico in the RVs they restored. Grandma kept all kinds of letters and notes and papers from 60 years. We found her “G” of her letter jacket. She was organized with paperwork from her collectibles and antiques she gathered  - Native American pottery, turquoise and artifacts. Amazing things, really.

The family bible was of course going to Mom. In it, Grandma has listed all her siblings birth and death dates, and moving forward to her children and grandchildren. I love that it’s in her handwriting. Bits of paper from a lifetime of accumulation had to be gone through, and stories resulted. Mom asked if I remembered that person or that story, and sometimes I had to hear the story again for old time’s sake.

I’m tasked with calling auctioneers to get a quote on what they think we can get for those items that we decided to sell. I’m not sure I’ll want to be at the sale or not, or have my cousin be there instead. Even though it wasn’t as hard as I had anticipated in going through all the things in the house, when I went to go load them into my car to drive home, I started to cry. By taking the things out of Grandma’s house, it meant that it was truly final and she really was gone. It’s been three years in September, and sometimes I forget that she really is gone. Taking some of her things that I can remember her having since my childhood, like the small wooden stepstool that was always in the kitchen because she was shorter than me, things like that, it’s hard to take them out of their home. We shall see if I can be there for the auction.

What pieces of your family have you inherited? How did you handle the emotions that come with inheriting things like that?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this sounds simultaneously wonderful and so incredibly difficult. I can't imagine all the emotions and stories that must have been flying around. So sweet of you to help. I'd love to have some of my grandmother's belongings. What wonderful memories.