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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

HEIRLOOMS

It’s hard to live for more than sixty years on this planet and not accumulate a few treasures along the way. I’d have no trouble filling several sheets of paper, naming those special items that are barely worthy of notice by some, but priceless to me. Most mothers collect mementos of their children’s growing up years—kindergarten art projects, mother’s day cards signed with a childish scrawl, a lock of hair from the first haircut, the first baby tooth that was carefully tucked under a pillow to await the tooth fairy, baby books, photo albums, and memories—so many memories.

Then there are those family heirlooms that are handed down from generation to generation. During the last ten years of my mother’s life, she methodically gifted each of her daughters with pieces of her past. Her mother’s china, her grandmother’s glassware, old books that had belonged to her aunt, scrapbooks, and pieces of jewelry, just to name a few. I have an old photo album of my grandmother’s, as well as a pair of seed pearl-embellished gloves she wore when she sang in the opera.

About eight years ago, knowing that I collected antique Bibles, my mother handed me a tissue-wrapped parcel, and told me, “I want you to have Grandma’s Bible.” I was thrilled to say the least, but for some reason I cannot fathom now, I did not take much time looking through it. Not long ago, I was dusting and my duster snagged on the corner of Grandma’s Bible. I pulled it from the shelf and carefully disentangled it. Then I did something I should have done eight years ago. I sat down and opened it, looking at the “family pages.” It was then I realized what I had. This was NOT my grandmother’s Bible. This was my grandmother’s grandfather’s Bible. The printing date was 1863. Listed there were my great-great grandfather’s birth and marriage dates, his siblings—one of whom died when she was but four months old. The genealogy of six generations unfurled across the pages. The last three generations were added in my mother’s handwriting, which included my two sisters and me, and our children.

Also tucked within the pages of the Bible was an old photograph of my great grandmother. I’d heard numerous stories about her, but never gazed upon her face before. She was beautiful. I was staggered to realize the treasure I’d had sitting on my bookshelf for eight years. This wasn’t just any antique. This outlined our family’s history. With shaking hands, I called my sisters and told them about the Bible. What a priceless treasure to hand down to the next generation.

In my new release, HEART OF HONOR, my heroine, Abigail Locke, has four treasures—her mother’s cameo brooch, an ivory-handled hairbrush, a daintily-embroidered handkerchief, and a lace collar. They are all Abby has to remind her of her mother whose face she cannot remember. Abby’s father, an Army colonel, insists she leave the army post and travel to Charlotte, North Carolina due to the tenuous conditions surrounding the relocation of the Cherokee nation just prior to the forced march to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. She digs her heels in and doesn’t want to go, but she has no choice in the matter. Her traveling companion is a widow lady from the fort, and their guide is Nathaniel Danfield, a dishonorably-discharged army lieutenant.

Abby tucks her mother’s keepsakes into the bottom of one of her trunks. While traveling through the mountains of north Georgia, an accident causes the wagon to plummet down a mountainside, taking Abby’s trunk and her cherished treasures with it. Her heart is grieved at the loss. For Abby, it’s almost like losing her mother all over again.

Nathaniel doesn’t know about Abby’s treasures, and thinks she’s being ridiculously petty, pouting about the loss of her trunk when she should be grateful they all survived. When he learns about those precious items contained in the trunk, to what lengths will he go to recover them for her?

When I look at the family heirlooms my mother gave to me and my sisters, an affinity forms in my heart for this character. While I have a lifetime of memories of my mother, Abigail lost her mother at such a young age, she has no memory of kisses or caresses, stories or lullabies. All she has are four keepsakes—material evidence of a connection with the mother she can’t remember.

The antique Bible I cherish is tangible proof of my family’s heritage. I may not have ever met the people whose names are inscribed on those pages, and I may not be able to picture their faces, but they are part of me. Like my mother before me, I want to pass this Bible on to the next generation. In this case, since my son has preceded me to heaven, the Bible will go my mother’s oldest grandchild—my niece. But I’ll make certain all of the nieces and nephews have photographs of the Bible and its pages.

I’ve been blessed with a love of history, but holding my own history in my hands was a gift that can only come from the generations before me.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

4 comments:

DebbieLynne said...

Wow Connie! How wonderful. I collect antique bibles too! I wish I had my great-grandmothers but I do have my grandfathers and my grandmothers. Like you I have so many treasures. Mine are mostly family. Yesterday I was given 3 bowls that have been in my family for over 100 years and still no chips! My pastor's wife gave me her grandmother's quilt (she is in her mid-seventies) and he gave me a match holder that was his grandmothers. I treasure them as much as my family things. They (our pastor and his wife) played important roles in mine and my husband and children's spiritual lives.

Kristi Ann Hunter said...

I have a blue and white ceramic urn that my aunt made for my grandmother. It sat in her house my entire life, in a place of honor. She had five daughters, 18 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren so when she died people were fighting over some of the precious items that everyone associated with her. No one fought over this urn. It's ugly. But I always remember seeing it in her house and so I claimed it as my momento of her. It's actually up in my attic right now because it really is huge and doesn't go well anywhere in my house, but I have it and it means so much to me.

Carolyn Thigpen said...

Isn't sentimental value the most important kind of value there is?! So glad you keep writing, Connie...thanks for writing from your heart! Hope you and John are doing well. -Carolyn

Kiersti said...

What a beautiful post, Connie--thanks for sharing your family's treasures with us.