The year is 2012 and in true February fashion, the afternoon arrived cold and cloudy. Guests attended the viewing, the ceremony, and now everyone waited patiently to pay their final graveside respects. My father and his older brother Lester stayed behind as the last guest left the cemetery.
They stood side by side and stared at the closed casket as it slowly descended into the ground. Uncle Lester slowly leaned over to my father and mumbled, “Well, what are we going to do now? Aunt Glennis knew all our family stories and now she’s gone.”
The Sandwich Generation
I belong to a certain demographic known as the Sandwich Generation. This is not a term I coined; it is just one with which I identify. This generation encompasses those of us who have aging parents, while still parenting kids at home.
Simply put, we make up the middle of a multigenerational sandwich. The peanut butter tucked in between the two slices of bread, the ones holding it all together. We are the bridge.
This club is vast with most of its members currently approaching middle age. We continue to build and create lives for ourselves and those offspring still at home, all the while balancing the respectful care of our parents and grandparents as they age.
My grandmother, affectionately known as Mimi, adored collecting family history. A genealogy connoisseur, she accumulated stories like a beachcomber gathers shells.
She traced lineage and rummaged for details within the walls of every library within a 100-mile radius of her small town of Rainbow City. When those libraries ran dry, she and her cousin Mildred drove to libraries in bordering states to see what they could uncover.
When Mimi extracted as much as she could from those larger libraries, she began to write hand-written letters to family members eager to gain their personal stories.
Years of precisely mined research inhabited several large three-ring binders shelved in her laundry room. After her death, my uncle collected all the data and spent days scanning and electronically saving each document. He sent me a copy and I recently printed off several of the files trying to learn more about my family’s legacy.
Today I feel the same as I did when I first perused those pages: simply in awe. Mimi saved everything. I have spent hours pouring over birth and death certificates, old Christmas cards, and newspaper articles containing any family member’s name.
I have many questions and, as my eyes examine each document, I identify slight hints of regret mixed in with my feelings of awe. Mimi and I spent hours sitting around her kitchen table drinking coffee as she told these stories though now I wish I had listened a bit more closely and even recorded them for posterity.
Placement of Pretty Things developed from a desire to start generational conversations. The logo created captures the heart of the mission. A mission initially sparked by a shattered heirloom, the beloved Cuckoo Clock.
The tree symbolizes our history with the connection from root to limb being represented by an unbroken line. Our heritage, traditions, and roots all impact how we walk through our daily lives.
The falling leaf symbolizes those who have left us. They have either departed this life for the next, or they have left our homes to start adventures of their own. Either way, they are separating and the falling leaf stands as a reminder that nothing remains static.
As a member of the Sandwich Generation, I know that great benefit is gained from the wisdom of parents and grandparents. My focus is to connect the two in a seamless way.
Stories are engaging and enjoyable, all the while instilling lessons and values in a discreet way. Heirlooms aid in this connection by starting the dialogue and providing a tangible touchpoint for the younger generation’s memories to adhere to for longevity.
I’d love for you to join me on this journey to tell the stories of your “pretties” in your own home, and if you’re so inclined, on this blog!
Here are a few practical ways to start the conversation in the home:
1. Start with one or two. Choose a couple of heirlooms, an antique or two, a hand-me-down or even just a small valuable that resides on the walls of your home. They do not need to be large or fancy. They just need to hold meaning.
2. Investigate the piece’s full background. If needed, seek out the item’s original owner and ask them these questions. How did you come to receive it? Why is it meaningful? Why have you kept it all these years? What was the lesson learned?
3. Record the story. Write it down. Take the pictures and the videos. Place the story with the heirloom if you can so that it will always be chronicled.
4. Share the story. Be the bridge. Invite over aunts, uncles, and grandparents to spend a night around the dinner table telling the story behind the heirloom(s). See what questions are generated.
5. Send the story to me. Yep! My stories serve as the catalyst but you are a key piece of the Placement of Pretty Things puzzle. Take advantage of this platform to share the lesson your pretties have taught you about life, your family and staying present. (Submit your story idea here!)