Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 9, 2022

"Heirloom" gifts

A couple of weekends ago, I gave daughter Katie an old jean jacket that had belonged to my dad. He died almost 20 years ago, and the jacket has been hanging in my hall closet since. While it was well-worn, the snaps on the cuffs still worked, the red lining was intact, and the brown corduroy collar was in good shape, so I thought she might enjoy wearing it during cool fall days when she takes walks with Willow, her and hubby Matt's golden retriever.

I gave her the jacket on Aug. 27. It didnít register until later that would have been Dad's 103rd birthday. I think he would be pleased - and slightly amused - that his granddaughter thinks itís an OK item to add to her wardrobe.

Niece Gabriela and husband Bernie expanded their family by one this month. They had encouraged relatives to write "welcome-to-the-world" messages prior to her birth, which husband Art and I did. But I also wanted to send a gift for the baby.

After mom's passing in 2016, I discovered among her things a pair of pillowcases I had embroidered nearly 50 years ago. I was a college student at the time and I couldn't afford much for Christmas gifts. So, I bought the pair of cases for $2.50 and embroidered each with flowers and the letter "E" - one for dad Edgar and one for mom Edla.

A friend gave me the name of a woman who owns Kountry Attic - a local shop with quilted and other hand-made items. She made a pillow out of one case and her mother Julie turned the other one into an old-fashioned doll. Julie included a note: "What a sweet heirloom your pillowcase is. So glad you're having this done to keep an heirloom out and not put away. I so enjoyed doing this for you. I do not want any payment for this. Just pay it forward."

I think the gifts with the monogrammed "E"s are particularly fitting as Gabriela and Bernie named their daughter Emilia - making the gifts from great-aunt Gloria personalized with a connection to Emilia's great-grandparents.

Gabriela's reaction was: "Love them so much. Pretty much cried #pregnancyhormones. Thank you very much! I know Emilia is gonna love them!"

Many people - including husband Art and sister Gaila - wonder why on earth I keep so many of these old family things. Gaila keeps encouraging me to "just get rid of them." But if I can find a recipient who will enjoy an item, something in me feels good about finding a new home for it.

That's not to say I don't sometimes surreptitiously "gift" items to family members. It had always been mom's wish that her kids and grandkids each have a piece of her clear Fostoria dinnerware. I didn't particularly want to break up the set, but despite being attractive, the large glass pieces are better suited for special occasions than daily use. I knew none of my siblings or our kids had room for something that would be so rarely used. I had previously given family members some pieces - bowls, a butter dish, a set of plates, a pitcher and glasses - but I still had quite a few left.

So I took six glasses, filled them with holiday greenery, candy canes, Hershey's red, green and silver Kisses, and gift cards. Then I gave one glass each to Gaila and her husband Humberto, their daughters Gabriela and Larisa, and our daughters Mariya and Katie and kept one for myself. I'm not sure how the others will use theirs, but this coming Christmas I plan to once again fill mine with greenery, candy canes and Kisses and put it on our dining room table as a holiday centerpiece.

Some items didn't appear to me to be easy adoptions, but quickly found willing recipients. Nephew Paul and wife Rachel inherited the metal "Bobís Candies, Pop Corn, Salt Water Taffy" sign my grandfather used to advertise the food stand he operated during the 1930s. It has a prominent place in their family room. Katie wanted Grandpa's 1930-Ď31 account book where he recorded his income and expenses for the stand.

Nephew Michael and wife Kristina took the set of art magazines mom had collected during her time she took correspondence courses. They also welcomed the small brown child's rocker that has been in the family for generations. Mariya has mom's brushes and palette from when she painted with acrylics and oils. The palette now graces her dining room wall.

If no one in the family wants a particular item, I reach out to others. I gave my college roommate and good friend a stack of old books. Another good friend and former colleague received a wicker stool and shelf. Friends Dave and Susan, who love antiques and collectibles, are now the proud owners of my folks' old kitchen table, which they use when they have summer picnics on their front porch.

"We like to use the red and white porcelain table for the 4th of July because it looks patriotic," Susan told me. "It's great for holding all the yummy foods we share."

None of these items is really an "heirloom" in the sense that the word is used on PBS's "Antiques Road Show." They don't have much intrinsic value and would probably bring just a few dollars at an auction or garage sale.

But to me, these "heirloom" gifts have sentimental value, and it makes me happy to see them being loved and used again.

Top (l-r): Katie in dad's jacket; Gabriela with the pillow and doll; Fostoria Christmas glasses; Gaila with some of her Christmas gifts, including the Fostoria glass. Bottom (l-r): nephew Paul's children Erynn, Chase and Sydney by their great-great grandfather's Depression-era sign; Mariya points to her grandmother's paint palette; the old Freeland table with some of Susan's and Dave's Fourth-of-July treats.

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