by Channing Muller


My family at the beach in Summer 2020.

This all started with the Cuckoo Clock.

While cleaning out my grandmother’s house after her passing, I discovered the bits of one left behind, of which my mother shared a moving story that became the first post on this blog.

The Spark

In hearing the history of the clock, it occurred to me that in all the rush that is current life, we are not slowing down long enough to spend time discovering some of our foundational pieces. Tracing down a family’s history is a lost art that few dabble in anymore. Modern schedules just do not allow for taking this type of liberty.

However, it is a skill that past generations, my grandmother’s in particular, took great pride in developing. She spent many a Saturday at the local library trailing her family’s roots all the way back to King Henry VIII. She filled binders full of this diligently harvested information. Amazingly, she discovered all this information long before Google and smartphones put every answer just a few clicks away.

While I don’t know if time will allow for the full perusal of the deep-rooted limbs of each of our family trees, I believe that there is a simple practice that is being overlooked. We each have objects, or “pretties” as my sweet Mimi referred to them, and they each have a family story attached.

These objects sit motionless on our desks, bookshelves, dining room tables, or nightstands and yet they each fill a gap in our narratives that will be incomplete if left untold.

Yet despite knowing this, these pretties sit collecting dust for years until finally they are boxed up and passed along in a broken box to the next generation and often with their stories lingering inside…untold.

Changing (and Documenting) the Narrative

Upon this realization, I gave myself an assignment:

I would hunt down the pretties from within my own corners, garages, and storage sheds and upon rediscovery, would document the bits of heritage stories that they hold.

(As a former schoolteacher, this is right in my wheelhouse.)

Stories connect us. They are universal. They transcend gender, age, race, and religion.

They link us together and, as I am learning even more during this turbulent time of disconnection in our society, that connection makes us feel fully whole. We need it, and the stories that these forgotten pieces give us build bridges from our past to our present.

You see, there are universal truths, principles, and values that past generations benefitted from in their upbringing that later fall by the wayside. I believe these are still longed for today though. It is through the retelling of their tales that we are allowed a moment to walk these guiding light principles across the bridge towards the future where they hopefully can be resurrected and find places to create an impact.

And so Placement of Pretty Things became to be.

Join me on this journey through the past on my mission to remind us how to remain present.

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