The headline caught my eye: Family calls for return of heirloom after accidental sale.
What treasure was accidentally sold? A painting? Some piece of jewellery? An ornament? A medal?
No, even the person calling for its return is quoted in the article that it’s not very special. So what is it? What was the thing that the owner felt worthy of contacting the paper and having her name, street and phone number published?
It’s a bamboo pot plant holder. The owner says she wouldn’t give a tuppence for it. So what’s the but, cause you know there’s a but coming.
Why is it special? Because her grandfather made it. And, says the distraught owner seeking its return, “is the very thing you keep as an heirloom.”
Not that I am mocking why someone values a pot plant holder. We all imbue objects with our emotions, with sentimental value, and others cannot see the worth we see.
Yet here is an object she says isn’t special but feels she must keep because it was made by her grandfather. Can she not remember him, honour him, without the object? And by virtue of saying it is an heirloom, she is expecting, perhaps condemning is too strong a word, her children to keep and care for something because she believes it has emotional value. Can we even pass on the legacy to keep items, we don’t really want to keep, to our children?
And this woman was having a garage sale, so obviously she was hoping to get rid of some clutter accumulated after 44 years in the one place. But not this piece.
So how did it get accidentally sold?
The article says it was sold by her daughter-in-law. And this is the bit that actually made me laugh. Can’t you just imagine the angst, the fraught conversations, the atmosphere? Then and at family events in the future! This is something that will never be resolved!
And here’s the rub. The owner says it’s an heirloom. The daughter-in-law sees no value in the object that would make it worth hanging onto. But she sees the value in getting items out and earning some pennies for her mother-in-law. Daughter-in-law, who may have been set to inherit the item, would have thought she was doing good, helping declutter the place, and clearly didn’t want the pot plant holder, or she would have asked for it herself.
As well as providing some light entertainment, this story has lessons for us all. Firstly, no item has the same value or meaning for everyone, so just because you think something should be passed down doesn’t mean those in your family want it. If you like or care for something, great. But don’t expect others to.
Secondly, you really don’t need to keep something you don’t like and wouldn’t “give a tuppence for” just because you think you should, because the thing has been around for a long time. So by virtue of the length of time the item has been in the house, we often think that gives it more value. Not value in the sense of an antique with monetary value but just as something we have invested years in, so we need to keep it. I find my husband says a similar thing, “You can’t throw that out. You’ve had it for years.”
Thirdly, sometimes we keep an object because of the sentimental value, that it helps us remember a special person. For this, I say, memories can exist without an object. By all means, keep the object if you wish. But you don’t need it to honour the person.
Today’s decluttered item = my wedding veil, in line with decluttering something that has been around for a long time and which has sentimental value. I didn’t keep this in a very safe place, that bottom drawer again. So it got a little tear and now would be worthless to any bride. So how’s that for valuing an object? Also I remember my wedding without this (which is just as well as it was shoved in a bottom drawer with other stuff piled on top and was spied rarely). I am a little guilt ridden giving this away for a child’s dress up box, but even if I fixed the tear, there is no saying any future daughter-in-law would want to have my veil foisted onto her. And now with a tear and missing beads, it has no value for anyone even on eBay.