Betty J. Slade
I have a feeling my children look at me as their great-grandmother from the ‘50s when she covered all her furniture with clear plastic. Clear runners ran down the hallway; even the toaster had a cover. Doilies covered worn arms on the sofa out of necessity. That was before my time.
My grandmother was from a generation that came out of the depression. They taught us to take care of things. They were much more aware of keeping something for their lifetime or for the object’s lifetime. Out of a state of respect or being frugal, knowing some things couldn’t be easily replaced, caused them to work hard to maintain them.
In my sibling’s family, I ended up with all the heirlooms and antiques. Spoken or otherwise, I feel I need to self-appoint and be a good steward of these treasures. Some are over a hundred years old, carved of solid wood and have deep meaning for me, because of the people who left them.
Our children’s generation has lived out of affluence. They replace things at any whim. When the fad or color changes or object becomes a little faded, out it goes. They change their surroundings with little to no regard for longevity.
I’m holding on to my antiques as our son Precious tries to take them one by one to the trash. He sees them as old stuff. I see them as treasures.
I looked out the kitchen window the other day to admire the beauty of a moment. As I looked across the yard, I noticed I was missing a little turquoise wheelbarrow that held pots filled with red geraniums. No one knows where it went. No one is claiming it.
I asked my Sweet Al about it. He said our son likely threw it away, but when asked, he doesn’t remember.
Then Al said, “I barely got there. Precious was trying to throw away my little bird bath out front. Luckily, I stopped him just in time.”
Be it an old chair on the porch, a wheelbarrow in the garden or a cabinet in the living room, there are things from different generations around our house that hold insurmountable memories. The cost of holding on to them is not much more than maintaining and caring for them with a swipe of a dust cloth.
My grandmother used to drape her furniture with plastic to keep things from getting scratched. By the time her things made their way to me, they showed generous use. A painted rose over a deep gash, or turning a scratch into a tree, I covered it up by decorating it. Another cover-up. It worked for me all of those years. Now there’s another generation and it’s not working for them.
I’m sure you recall our son’s gift. Now that most of the drama associated with receiving it is over, I asked my Sweet Al to get a tarp to cover our new white outdoor furniture. He came home with a big 24x36 tarp.
After fighting the wind and rain, the cover proved too big and didn’t work. We live on a dirt road and in the country. To keep off the dust and the wilds of the Blanco, I thought the tarp was necessary and returned it for another size. It was an undercover coup d’état. We planned to cover it when my Precious went to work.
Before the tarp went over the patio furniture and as the last cushion was being arranged, my Sweet Al came by with the weed eater and stirred up the grass and dirt. It rained that night, leaving every cushion looking like it had been rolled down the road in mud. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“The fabric is made for the outdoor weather.” Our son took one look at the patio settee, picked up the hose, sprayed everything down and then walked away. I will never understand how that gesture measures to caring for something, but it seemed to remedy the situation for him.
Final brushstroke: We believed our children would scramble to get their hands on them, even fight over our antiques. Each generation holds on to things that bring comfort and remembrance. In my family, apparently it’s not our family heirlooms.
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