I have bought more than my fair share of souvenirs over the years, and I will say, they always do successfully remind me of the place or event where I got them. For me they even tend to hold the emotions of the event – bringing back a little rush or happy or bittersweet every time the object is viewed. It’s why it’s so hard to get rid of that kind of stuff.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year parting with objects that were mostly sentimental if I didn’t find them exceptionally beautiful or useful as well. And I’ve made a complete turnaround when it comes to buying those types of objects in the first place – mostly because I haven’t been able to afford them, but I also have come to terms with the fact that I don’t NEED the object to remind me of the event anymore.
But what about when the objects in question are connected to a person? When you are being offered something to help you remember a person in your life? I’ve read so many stories about people whose homes are filled with stuff they inherited after a parent or sibling or child passed away, but they can’t part with it because the stuff feels like their last ties to that individual.
A couple weeks ago we had the memorial service for my Grandmother. While sad, it was also a really lovely tribute to a woman we all loved so much, and some stories were told about her that I’ve never heard before. My aunts and other relatives who live in the area all did a great job of putting it together and gathering everyone to remember her.
After the service, we went to my Aunt’s house, where a bunch of my grandma’s possessions – like jewelry, handkerchiefs, some fancy dishes, and other special items, were laid out on the dining room table. Per my grandma’s wishes, in age order, her seven granddaughters were allowed to go through and each select a piece of jewelry they wanted. Once everyone had been through once, we could go through again, until people either passed on the stuff or everything was claimed.
I have heard horror stories of fights within families over valuables after someone has died – resulting in ugly scenes, decades-long feuds, and attempts to steal stuff back and forth. I’m happy to say this experience was the exact opposite of that. Part of it was the way it was set up, and I think the other part was that while we all miss my grandma, I don’t think any of us feel like the objects she left behind are necessary to remember her. She provided us with 100 years of love, stories, wisdom, and advice, and while having one or two objects of hers is a nice talisman, she is embedded enough in our hearts and minds that no one needed to hoard her possessions to remember her.
When it came my turn to pick, I really tried to think about my grandma, and what things about her popped up most for me. She loved opals, and I remember going shopping with her for an opal necklace when I was little, and watching her excitedly exclaim over the fire in the ones she liked. But I am personally not drawn to opals, and I knew if I took one of the opal pieces of jewelry, it would just sit unworn in my jewelry box. Then I saw a bag that held her wedding rings. There was a matched set with a slender gold wedding band and a matching engagement ring, which is what I always remember her wearing. Also in the bag was a very old looking gold band with a white gold centerpiece that had an empty space in it where a diamond had been. My aunt explained that the older looking ring missing the stone was my grandmother’s original ring, but the diamond had fallen out at some point, and then sometime in the 60’s they had replaced that ring the with the set that was in the bag. When my grandfather died, my grandmother found a large wad of cash in his dresser drawer, which my aunt knew he had been saving to buy her a replacement diamond for the old ring.
When I think about it, my most prominent memories of my grandmother are ones that include my grandfather. Because we lived in a different state, we usually saw them about twice a year when we were growing up – we would go visit them every summer, and it seemed like they would come visit us about once a year as well. My grandfather died the summer before I was a senior in a high school, and as is typical, once I was in college and then on to my adult life, our family didn’t take our yearly summer trip together anymore. So although my grandmother outlived my grandfather by quite a few years, I saw her less frequently than I had when I was growing up and she and my grandfather were together.
My grandparents loved each other deeply, but the dynamic of their daily relationship was to bicker like crazy. If you asked them fifteen minutes after a “fight” if they were still mad, they would both look puzzled and say “About what?” My grandmother was very proper and could probably be described as sometimes fussy and uptight about things, and my grandfather was the exact opposite. I can remember so many times listening to my grandmother twittering or worrying aloud about something (weather, my grandfather’s health, what to make for dinner), until my grandfather would get exasperated and exclaim, “Oh HELL, mother! Would you stop worrying? It’s FINE!” while I would try to hold back the giggles. But they were also undeniably in love, and watching my grandmother say goodbye to my grandfather at his funeral is one of my saddest memories. When my grandmother died this year, one of my first and most comforting thoughts was thinking of them being reunited again.
So I decided to take the wedding rings. They not only remind me of my grandmother, they also remind me of my grandpa, and how much I loved their relationship. When my other grandmother died about ten years ago, my aunt gave me her wedding ring, which I wear on my right hand, and it makes me think of her every time I see it. I’m now wearing my Grandma Smith’s wedding band on my right hand as well, and the effect is the same. At some point when I can afford it, I will probably replace the diamond in the original ring and wear that one too, but for right now, I’m just wearing the wedding band, and I love it.
I had the opportunity to go through and choose again, but I decided to pass. I think I chose the perfect thing for me, and though in the emotion of the moment it was tempting to want to take more stuff, I knew it would just end up unused in a drawer somewhere. Her wedding ring, and what it represents to me, is lagom.