Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 8, 2024


I've been searching for an appropriate word for something someone inherits largely inadvertently and is of minimal value. "Inheritance" isn't quite right as it tends to imply something of value, such as money or land. We are inclined to use the term "heirloom" only when an item had some emotional significance to the person who died or to those close to that person. Examples might be a violin or a piece of furniture.

Maybe a new word is needed - something like "heirstuff." "Heir" conveys the passage from one family member to someone else at a person's death, but "stuff" pretty well brings it all down to earth.

When my first husband died, we were just beginning our life together and we really didn't have much of monetary value. It was pretty much all "stuff." But Jerome did have a well-used Makita cordless drill and flashlight set that husband Art has used frequently over the years. At the end of some project after he's used it, I sometimes hear him say, "Thank you, Jerome!"

On our deck, we have a metal wind chime that had belonged to Art's aunt Ione. Whenever the Kansas winds pick up, one of us will look at the other and say, "Ione’s talking."

We have a number of potholders that Art swears are the best ones we have that were made by my grandpa Nels Mostrom - more heirstuff.

When Art's mom Donna was near the end of her life, we were making arrangements for his brother Tommy to become her guardian since he lived nearby. When the lawyer asked if she had any collections of value, I asked, "Do you count twist-ties or rubber bands?" It illustrated how his mother and dad had lived - everything was valued based on its usefulness and not its monetary worth.

When Donna passed, Tommy moved into her Appleton, Wisconsin home and then with his passing, it and its contents went to Art. While the home and lot certainly have value, all of the bits and bobs associated with their lives don't. But much like the drill, wind chime, and pot holders, many of them continue to bring pleasure. Quite a few of these heirstuffs are things we would have been unlikely to have purchased, yet have proven to be welcome additions to our lives. Examples abound.

Art likes the toothpick dispenser his brother had.

Flashlights really aren't needed much now, but the small LED ones Tommy had have been helpful at times.

I've not checked how long the subscriptions run, but I'm still enjoying the Smithsonian, Saturday Evening Post, and Reader's Digest magazines Tommy purchased ... and he died in 2021!

For some reason none of us can fathom, Tommy bought a number of printers and then never even opened the boxes. One of those went to Art's cousin's son, and we use another whenever we are back in Appleton.

We usually don't have much need for a magnifying glass, but there are times when it can be handy. The one Art's mom occasionally used while working crossword puzzles is now always at arm's length in the living room. Whenever either of us reaches for it, it always makes us think of Donna and her love of those puzzles.

Some of these heirstuffs prompt a smile. Tommy was well known in the family for his complete lack of mechanical ability. When Art discovered two large crescent wrenches Tommy had bought, he couldn't imagine why he had done so. Yet when Art had to install a new water shutoff valve at the home in Appleton, those wrenches were a perfect tool to tighten the compression fittings.

Tommy had also purchased a can opener that Art said looked like something you'd see on one of those TV infomercials. But to his amazement, it works well and is our go-to choice now.

Just as with the magazine subscriptions, I've benefitted from other heirstuff. Tommy had several packages of slippers and thick socks that he never opened. Along with a pair of old-fashioned long johns, I've made good use of them during Wisconsin's winter months.

Tommy had almost machine-like printing and wrote engaging letters, often including research he had done at the library. He used various colored pens to underline things for emphasis. So when he passed, we found a large stash of those, which Art's daughter Karen was thrilled to have. I was excited to find his abundant supply of "Forever" stamps, as I like to send cards for birthdays and other special occasions. His stash of multiple Scotch tape dispensers have also come in handy for wrapping Christmas gifts.

Of course, some of the heirstuff was a bit excessive. He had something like 50 pairs of scissors. How many scissors can one person use? He also had multiple inexpensive quartz clocks, so the living room in Appleton now has three of them on the walls - and that fact somehow makes us smile!

Then there were the six jars of different brands of maraschino cherries. Art claims pouring a bit of the juice into a glass of Fresca makes quite a refreshing drink.

There were also five personal DVD players and they all seem to work. Like the scissors, how many does one person need?

These heirstuffs are all inconsequential things, yet somehow have managed to bring a good deal of pleasure, either through their daily use or their simple entertainment value. They may not change our lives like an heirloom or an inheritance, but they're more than OK!

A few of our heirstuff items: upper-left:Donna's magnifying glass; right: "Smithsonian," "Saturday Evening Post," and "Reader's Digest" magazines; on top of the "Post," Tommy's toothpick dispenser; left-middle: two of Nels' potholders; lower-left: two of Tommy's many tape dispensers

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