Things of the Heart

Sara Etgen-Baker

© Copyright 2023 by Sara Etgen-Baker
Photo property of Sara.
                           Photo property of  Sara.

People sometimes tell me the heirlooms given to me hold no value over how my heart feels, but these things have memories, stories of where they've come from that tug at my heart. They’re scattered about my home, adorning it as subtle nostalgic strings upon which travel the finest emotions of bygone days.
Grammy’s cookie jar is one such item. It’s a rather rotund, ceramic Shawnee Pottery Pig she purchased in 1950 that she named Sweetie-Pig. She kept it in a corner cabinet in her kitchen, a bit out of my childhood reach forcing me to stand on ballerina toes hoping to nab just one of her sugar cookies. It now sits atop my refrigerator filled with sugar cookies. I can’t imagine my adulthood without the promise of one of the mist-shrouded cookies of yesteryear. When I get the urge, I lift Sweetie-Pig’s faded and aged lid and grab a cookie from her taking in all the wonderful memories of Grammy’s sweet smile while reminiscing about her sugar cookies.

Mother’s pink gold cameo necklace is a family heirloom, a necklace she received upon graduation from high school. Wearing it reminds me of the rare occasion when she wore it, like her anniversary or Mother’s Day. I remember Pop standing behind her, his brown eyes sparkling, gently draping it around her neck. Using his large, calloused fingers, he closed the tiny clasp; placed a gentle kiss on her right earlobe; and whispered, “I love you.” I cherished their demonstration of love for one another, their timeless bond that even now leaves me feeling warm, secure, and safe.

Touching Pop’s wire-rim glasses transports me back to our family’s living room where he sat down every evening with a cup of coffee, positioned his glasses on his nose, routinely reading the evening newspaper or his fishing magazine. I often sat at his side on the couch or by his feet reading a book, silently sharing the evening with him.
My childhood piggy bank, Esmerelda, is a birthday gift I received from my Aunt Betty who’d once stuffed Esmerelda’s belly with coins when she was a child. Relda, as I named her, now sits on a bookshelf in my office reminding me of how many times I, too, stuffed Relda’s belly with coins I found or money I earned doing chores or running errands. Seeing her triggers memories of the lessons I learned in delayed gratification and frugality.

As a young girl, I was fascinated with Granny’s Lane cedar chest, often sneaking into her bedroom and peeking inside, believing that it was a magical treasure chest where pixies that smelt like cedar lived. Granny’s cedar chest now sits in my bedroom where every so often I open it, its rusty hinges creaking, and inhale that familiar cedar smell. I’m instantly sent back in time remembering Granny and the homemade quilts, linens, and lace doilies she stored inside.
While all these things are certainly priceless, the one I treasure the most is an antique heirloom box filled with photographs, cards, letters, and assorted memorabilia. From time to time, I scour through its contents noticing that cousins, nieces, and nephews look so young and small in the images now yellowing inside the box. And the handwriting so solid and steady in old letters and cards now looks less solid and steady. Has it really been that long? Some of the memories conjure up times spent with family members long-since passed, and I once again experience the sour taste of losing them. The images of visits to their homes bring back fond childhood memories that warm my heart, lift my spirits, and help me more vividly remember them.

These heirlooms and many more around my home are invaluable—a treasure trove of things of the heart, infused with memories and emotions. I’m grateful for these tiny time machines, for they transport me back in time connecting me to a relative who lived long ago; a place from my past; or a long-forgotten special moment or event.

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