Poems & Essays

26 May

Searching for a Heritage

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I used to read about girls playing dress-up in old attics. I’d picture trunks filled with hoop skirts and patchwork quilts made by generations of women but reality for me was a three room apartment… until I met Gloria.

Gloria lived in a house with an upstairs and a downstairs and most wonderful of all, an attic filled with treasures. “That was my great grandmother’s table,” she’d say and my hands slid over the oak, worn smooth with time. She showed me her grandmother’s bridal gown and a hand-made cradle. “Every baby in our family for five generations has slept in this cradle.”

I sighed, envious, not of the cradle, but of the tradition and heritage it represented. My babies would sleep in no such a cradle.

I longed for something to touch that had belonged to my great grandmother, something to pass on to my children, ties to generations past,

But my grandparents had come to this country in steerage, able to bring little more than their babies.

I always returned from Gloria’s house to our small apartment where all of my clothes filled one drawer in the dresser I shared with my brother and sister. Under my cot, one small shoe box held all of my personal treasures.

After I married, I resolved to save everything I could so that my children would have a heritage. Over the years I became a pack rat, finding value in broken toys, outgrown clothes and discarded furniture. As my family grew, we moved to our first house, then to a larger one. And my collection grew too.

Then a job offer for my husband necessitated a move to a city and to a smaller house. That meant parting with many treasures.

When Ian and Laurie returned from college, I told them of the things we’d had to leave behind.

They didn’t care about the old green velvet couch. They reminded me of our games of Hide and Seek and of the time Laurie, so small, had hidden behind the couch and fallen asleep.

They didn’t care about the Tiffany lamp we’d left but that brought memories of the night the electricity went out and we took turns reading out loud by candlelight.

They didn’t care that we had given away their sled. They had memories of our frosty winter days, playing in the snow and then having hot chocolate and cookies in the toasty warm kitchen.

On that evening in our new home, my children taught me an important lesson. Their heritage came from the love and the memories we shared.

And I realized that for generations, all of the babies in our family have been sleeping in the same hand-made cradle, a cradle made of love.

 

Carren Strock is equally at home with a paintbrush and canvas, a needle and thread, a hammer and nails, or a pen and paper, and is as eclectic in her writing as she is in her other interests. While best known for her definitive sociological study, Married Women Who Love Women, now in it’s second edition, she is also the author of an autobiographical how-to book A Writer’s Journey: What to Know Before, During, and After Writing a Book, an exciting mystery, In the Shadow of the Wonder Wheel, and a paranormal romance, Tangled Ribbons. Her latest book, Grandpa and Me and the Park in the City is a rhyming picture book in which she has combined both her writing and her painting skills.

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