The Things We Leave Behind

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things we leave behind. It seems like the notion of legacy is in the air.

My friend, Jerusalem‘s, book will be published this spring: A Homemade Year. It’s about how to incorporate the liturgical calendar into your life with your children through crafts and recipes. But really, it’s more about how to bring your faith in a deliberate way into your home. I grew up in a tradition that focuses very much on being “inspired.” And I think that probably works for a lot of people. But the truth is, I don’t feel inspired most of the time. Most of the time I feel exhausted and drained and broken down. I need something to do until I can figure out how I feel. While there’s nothing magical about the calendar itself, the tradition of it soothes me. I feel connected to the people of faith who have come before me, and I believe I am leaving something to those who come after me.

To add to the legacy soup, Katy Kat is getting married. We’re talking a lot about the wedding day. She’s deciding for herself what’s important and what isn’t. She initially didn’t think she wanted to register for china. The whole tradition seems dated and silly to her. And who really uses china anyway? I told her it was none of my business and she could do what she wanted, but I strongly recommended she rethink that decision. True, china is not terribly important when you’re 23 and going to live in one-bedroom apartment for the forseeable future. It’s later, when Thanksgiving comes to your home for the first time, when you want set a proper table, then lovely tableware matters. Incidentally, her fella’s neighbors, who have been like grandparents to him said they wanted to give them a set of china they have. They did not have children, so they feel like this would be the appropriate young couple to pass it down to. Katy Kat will need some pieces to fill and probably some more place settings, but that’s the beauty of registry. When she found out about the gift, she was genuinely touched, “I get it now,” she said. “It’s what you pass down.”

J cufflinks, tie tack and handkerchief

Then this weekend, I was talking to my son about his name. He was asking why my maiden name was his first name and the obvious confusion that creates for a 6-year-old kid. I reminded him of his Granddad Jackson and Uncle Edward (his middle name). I told him he was named for good, strong men who watched over him from Heaven. Then I remembered I had some things he might want to see. I pulled out of a drawer some J cuff links, a tie tack and handkerchief my Nano gave me after Granddad died. She said Jackson was to get them when he graduated from high school. It was important to Granddad that those go to him on that occasion. I promised they would. My son was confused about what they even were, and quite frankly a little weirded out over a tissue you don’t throw away.  But I told him I would put them away for when the time was right.

So much of what we leave behind cannot be seen or felt, but some of it can. I hope my great-grandchildren light candles for Advent and pray for new beginnings. I hope that one day after I am gone, my son and my niece get together and eat a meal on the “good” dishes given to me when I married Charlie. I hope the handkerchief my grandfather gave my son, finds its way into the hands of someone who will wipe tears of joy at the sight of the next generation beginning a life together. I hope there are treasures for children to be found in the things I leave behind.



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8 responses to “The Things We Leave Behind

  1. Thanks for this post. And thanks for teaching Jackson and “Katy Kat” the importance of handing things down through the family. I’ve learned the importance of and the warmth such items bring long after their original owners are gone. To me it’s not being materialistic or greedy to want and to treasure items from your family. Once the person is gone, all you have are the memories, photos and “their things.” Memories are great, photos are great, but their things you can still touch, hold, rub, smell and enjoy. You can remember when they used or wore them, you can remember how you came to have them after their death. This very day I am wearing a bracelet that belonged to my great-great aunt and a monogrammed silver watch fob (as a bracelet) that belonged to my great-great uncle who died before I was born. Their legacy lives in me – and today, on me.

  2. One of the neat things about my grandmother moving in with my parents is: she got to see us all receive a lot of our inheritance now. To hear me tell her that the red and white polka-dotted vase/pitcher is one of my most favorite things. To know that I plan to design an entire kitchen around the blue and white plates my Pops sent his mama home from WWII. We didn’t register for China, much to the church ladies’ horror. I wanted dishes. They’re chipped all to heck because I am why we can’t have nice things. But we did inherit a set from Jon’s grandparents, so we will have something nice to eat off of on that future day when I can miraculously be trusted not to drop the good plates.

  3. I’m crying for the second time today. Did I take my medicine? Yes, I did. OK so I’m just moved. Thank you for this. I remember purging when I moved out of the house and then again when I moved into my condo. Many of the things I kept were impractical but dear because they came from family members. I’ve started to use the “good” stuff every day.

  4. Dang you, Kerri! This post is beautiful. You made me shed a tear or two as well (shhhhh). I expect more from you!

  5. That was beautiful, Kerri. A little more than a year ago, my last surviving grandparent – and the one I was always closest to – died, right after I found out I was having a girl. Since I was the only granddaughter on that side of the family, I received a lot of special things from my grandmother after she passed. A lot of things became really important to me, not just because I liked them or maybe they had monetary worth, but because of the memories they brought back to me and that they were all I have left to tell Avery about who my “Gannie” was and how much she would’ve loved her. I hope she’ll someday appreciate all that and pass on to the next generation as well. Great post and great reminder about the things left behind.