Archive for the ‘Heirlooms’ Category

Neighbor’s exclaimation reveals the heirlooms that bind us to our past

September 11, 2009

Aaaarrghhhh!!!

That was the sound of delighted recognition, involuntarily escaping the throat of my neighbor’s cousin, upon spying a strainer in a cupboard.

It was Independence Day. Invited to dinner at a neighbor’s house, we ladies were in the kitchen and the boys were outside practicing legalized pyromania, under the supervision of a responsible adult, of course.

Boisterous chatter and laughter filled the air, mingling melodically with the distant staccato crackle of sparklers and Pop-its. Suddenly, my neighbor ducked beneath the counter to retrieve a utensil, but her access was impeded by uncooperative cabinet mechanism. Her cousin bent down to assist and then, screamed.

My vivid imagination shifted, immediately, into overdrive – unlike my legs or body, which, I will confess, did not even deign to feign activity. Picturing a cache of rodent droppings, or a rodent(s) deep in rigor mortis, I was quite content to be on my side of the counter and was congratulating myself on my good fortune, when comprehensible conversation resumed.

“I have that strainer, but mine is bigger! It’s got to be 60 years old!” Exclaimed my neighbor’s cousin.

“You do? This was my grandmother’s!” Responded my neighbor.

“It might even be 70 years old.” Said her cousin.

“I bet it came from a set.” Declared my neighbor.

Passing the strainer tenderly between themselves, my neighbor and her cousin (whose grandmothers were sisters) bantered excitedly back and forth, delving into their memories, reminiscing. I marveled at how a simple strainer had so effortlessly opened a pathway to their pasts, their present and their familial connections. It was as if magical memory tentacles poured forth from this strainer and bound them, no, hugged them, together.

Their excitement was palpable. I sat utterly enchanted, smiling, my heart filling, honored to be a sentimental observer, allowed to bask in their joy, when out of nowhere an ill-mannered curmudgeon clonked me out of my heart and into my head.

Abruptly, I was no longer in my neighbor’s kitchen. I was inside my own head, and thinking. Thinking how I didn’t have kitchen accoutrements with memory tentacles that had been passed down my family tree, to me. How I had no fancy wedding crockery, not even a chipped mug, with sentimental, scream-inducing value, for my poor, evidently deprived, sons to inherit.

I don’t recall purchasing a ticket, but I had boarded the “Woe Is Me” train, which was hurtling down a track that I was laying. About to sign the papers promoting me from “track layer” to driver of said train, the Universe mercifully intervened, bonking me on my noggin, bringing me back to “Life.” As I “regained consciousness,” I heard my guardian angel, (or was it my inner child?) admonishing: “You don’t even believe in fancy china, Silly Billy!”

Puttering alone around my house the next day, I caught a glimpse of my late father’s red guitar. Halted mid-putter, a silent scream ricocheted and resonated within me. Instantly, I remembered how my siblings and I had loved to sit at my dad’s feet, luxuriating in the sound of his strumming and singing; how my dad had insisted I take the guitar from his house when I had, once again, rushed back to England to visit him in the hospital. (How I couldn’t do it because it would have meant admitting he was going to die.) I recalled how, when I finally received the guitar, (my dad died a year later, peacefully at home), I taught myself to play, beginning triumphantly with the D, G and A7 chords. I chuckled when I thought about how when I play this red guitar, my sons will sometimes, unconsciously, sing along with me. (Don’t tell them I told.)

And I realized that I did, too, have my own scream-inducing family heirloom. Only my “Aaaarrghhhh!!!” is more of an, “Huuummmm!” and definitely in the key of D.

Sharon Martini is an English “mummy.” She lives in the Bridlemile neighborhood with her two sons, several pets. A local singer and actress, she also writes and illustrates little picture books.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009, edition of The Southwest Community Connection Newspaper.

Are there family heirlooms in your life that make you squeal?

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