Saving Family Heirlooms

My uncle's hand-painted sign

My uncle's hand-painted sign

To step into my kitchen is to step back in time.  Not just into my mother’s generation but as far back as her great-grandmother’s day.  Instead of saving family heirlooms in dusty, attic boxes; I’ve chosen to display my family’s treasures where I continue the traditions passed down through the generations. 

Among my treasures is my great-great-grandmother’s kneading board, my grandfather’s scale, one of the original signs my uncle hand painted for Harper’s Hams, my husband’s toy tractor from his childhood days, the checker board originally housed in the one of several family-owned country stores, barn wood frames made by my father, and one of the milk cans from my grandparents’ farm.  It’s not just the things but the stories behind each item that bring a rich heritage to this space.  I make my own laundry detergent, bath soap, and household cleaners and each time I mix and measure and stir, I picture the black kettle my grandmother used to make her own soap.  When I gather eggs from my chickens, I hear the same familiar cluck of the hens I once heard in her farmyard and feel a connection to the past.  

My own grandchildren delight in eating fruit directly picked out of the strawberry patch and they help me stir up cakes and cookies using utensils and bowls my ancestors once used.  The sewing, needlework, gardening, cooking, canning, care of animals, and homemaking are all the things women of my family have done for generations as gifts of love to those entrusted to their care.  To create these gifts in a room filled with memories makes the present all the more sweet as I leave my own legacy among the collected treasures of the past.

My husband's childhood tractor

My husband's childhood tractor

Karen Shaw