As Father Tim works on the restoration of the Nativity scene in Shepherds Abiding, it sparks a childhood memory of his father and the heirloom creche passed down from his Irish relatives that had pride of place in the Kavanagh home at Yuletide. Whether it’s a serving piece that graces your Thanksgiving table or a keepsake placed upon the Christmas tree, do you have a similarly special inherited item that must make an appearance among your holiday decorations?
I have many keepsakes from various time periods and different relatives. You might say my entire life is full of keepsakes. I am transported to the past; a gathering, a holiday, a conversation, a laugh and a half, a tragic time even. Most importantly, each piece reminds me of the person it came from, how and when it was given, my age and theirs at the time and the context in which it was given. Sometimes it sparks a thought or experience about the person or a lesson learned that is new and different, a relevant lesson for a new time. The current time. I love heirlooms.
Every special occasion I use my Greandmother's sterling flatware I have had over 60 years. I also have special dishware that I use for each occasion: turkeys for thanksgiving, Christmas trees for Christmas , etc. Every special occasion should be treated with family treasures!
For Thanksgiving we always place the turkey on my late maternal grandmother's turkey platter. For Christmas we always put on the tree her handmade decorations she made and a special ball she gave us. We also always put all the handmade things we made in school. We have a few handmade and store bought gifts from friends.
I too, have many keepsakes from multiple family members. For years I would lug my mother’s silverware back and forth for each holiday. It had stayed in the chest for over 20 years without being used until I decided to polish a few pieces at a time and bring it back to life. I loved using it and continued to cart it back and forth until one time my mother told me I should keep it, that I had taken better care of it than she ever had. That was over thirty years ago and still I take this out for each holiday, give a light cleaning and the set my table. While at first I loved the elegance of using this on my table, now I love the memories of my mom that it evokes each time I use it.
It's a wrinkled watercolor painting full of large pine trees with a rocky hill on the side of the paper. At the bottom of the hill, tucked in a cave-like opening are the small figures of the Holy Family. A donkey and sheep cuddle within the frame. The colors are swirls of dark blue for the night, splashes of ever-green for the tall pines, and a swatch of yellow for the moon. The colors are not limited by the black lines because the hands, old and new, of grandmother and toddler are putting the scene together while sharing the beautiful story.
The toddler Noah is now almost 21 and Grandma still unrolls the painting to post it on her refrigerator as her manger scene. Yes, the Christmas story , a true heirloom; the painting, a memory of a winter afternoon with paint brush in hands and the story retold again and again.