Friday, August 1, 2014

One Generation of TIme

From childhood to young adult, schools, careers, travels, relationships, marriage(s), parenthood and retirement, everyone moves from place to place, accumulates, inherits and buys stuff. Many boxes are filled up, moved around, some get lost, some get trashed, and some are kept. Within all of this boxed and bagged stuff, there are some worthy keepsakes. Then you ask yourself what should you do with all this stuff? The answer is to create a personal and/or Family Museum(s).

As an amateur historian, I appreciate the efforts of conservators, archeologists, even treasure hunters. Yet when you go to museums to see coveted antiques, rare artifacts and treasures from the bottom of the sea, you can’t help feeling disconnected. Glass walls retain you, museum guards prohibit you, and people standing in front of you diminish your ability to appreciate what you want to see.

However, when you arrange and display your heirlooms in your museum, you can touch the delicate lace on the doily, imagine the taste of the sweet tea in grandmas’ china teacup, sniff the sweet smell of powder in the baby blanket, see how  your mother’s wedding ring looks on your finger, and hear the shrill sound as you blow your uncle’s bugle. All of your senses; sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch . . .  come alive and so do the lives of those family members who sewed that lace, made the tea, bathed the baby, said I do, and didn’t want to get up in the morning!

For example, when I placed my father’s coal-stained paycheck stubs in the album I made for him chronicling his life, coal residue came off my fingers. When I picked up nana’s iron skillet, the weight alone made me wonder how she maneuvered this heavy pan. When my husband takes the toy truck his father made for him off the shelf to show someone, he feels his father’s pride.    

Some items make you ponder; others make you laugh. Some can make you cry. And this is all well and fine because these feelings help you see and understand your ancestors, their trials and tribulations, just like yours.   

Another example was the time when I started to display my husband’s peach-colored Leisure Suit. I asked him if he wanted to try it on. He laughed then shook his head and asked me how did I ever get him to wear it in the first place? Then he challenged me to try on my pink Dynasty suit with its big padded shoulders and jeweled encrusted lapel. I just grimaced.

What is important is to know that as you display your family memorabilia, you are preserving your family’s history. Keepsakes reveal the stages of life: baby shoes, dolls & kitchen sets, cowboys & cars, school graduations, and the top of the wedding cake. They are like those little crumbs you leave along the way as you travel down the paths you have taken through life. The things we preserve today will pass onto our children tomorrow, reestablishing our past, confirming our present, and guaranteeing that we will not be forgotten in the future.

From one generation to the next, family history gets lost. Those things that went  missing, however, left regret. But no more! Now is the time, today not tomorrow, to start creating your Family Museum. It doesn’t matter what you place on the shelf first. It doesn’t matter if it is a replacement if the original is gone. It doesn’t matter if it appears to be a piece of junk or an antiquity. It doesn’t matter if it has a hole in it or is broken. What matters is that whatever it is, it has a memory that needs to be remembered, it has a value that needs to be protected, and it has a life story that needs to be told. And not only do these things showcase you and your family’s life, it represents America’s and many other countries and cultures, too. Your museum will be a rich and rewarding project that will enhance your family's life.

“The difference between a piece of junk and an heirloom or antique is simple: one generation of time. If items can survive the junk stage for one full generation, they will become curiosities and then valuable family keepsakes and heirlooms.”        (From The Everything Family Tree Book by William G. Hartley)

Cover design on “THE BOOK THAT TAKES YOU BACK” by Michael Gitter & Sylvie Anapol (1996) available on   and is proudly displayed in my Family Museum.  
I hope you enjoyed reviewing these first five posts. Comments appreciated.

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