As an aging baby boomer I am trying to “downsize.” I’m trying to simplify my life and make things less stressful for my family when the time comes for them to say their final goodbye to me and my “stuff.” Like many folks, I have a box tucked away that holds the little treasured keepsakes from my past, and I recently went through my box. Covered in yellow, gingham-flowered Con-Tact paper that matched my teenage bedroom, it usually resides in the dark recesses of our linen closet.

“Does it matter that these keepsakes were misidentified? No. It matters more that I know the truth, know a bit more about my great-grandmother, and can identify something we have in common,” Paula Sparks writes. Photo courtesy of Paula Sparks

I like to imagine my kids and grandkids going through these things and smiling at the memories, but it’s more likely they will be shaking their heads! Scrapbooks from junior high and high school hold ticket stubs and school play programs, silly letters from friends, old valentines and pressed tissue paper flowers from prom that will have absolutely no meaning to them, but they may enjoy reading my old report cards – all 13 years’ worth.

Another book is devoted to my years in Camp Fire Girls, the awards I received, ceremonies I took part in and my hand-beaded vest and headband. Maybe they will Google “Camp Fire Girls,” wondering why I spent so many years in Camp Fire Girls, yet leave the making of fires up to my husband. Papers I wrote in college, old driver’s licenses and my first pay stub might give them a little insight into my life so long ago, before my hair turned gray and my body creaked, or a laugh at how long I got away with my weight remaining the same number on my license when it didn’t in real life!

My real treasured keepsakes won’t be found in that box though, and I’m not sure my family would know they are keepsakes. They are found decorating my home, and they have a story I haven’t yet told them. Among all my beloved secondhand furniture and knick-knacks, some family keepsakes, others rescued from sales, are some potholders. Passed to me from my mother, they are crocheted from fine cotton into designs too beautiful to be practical, and hang on a rack in my kitchen. Mémère, my mother’s mother and the only grandmother I knew, was a wonderful seamstress and sewed many doll clothes for me, so I assumed she had made them. That is, until the day my father’s cousin gave me one just like it and told me it was made by my dad’s grandmother.  A light bulb went off! My potholders had not come from Mémère at all, but from my great-grandmother Ida, who I never knew.

Does it matter that these keepsakes were misidentified? No. It matters more that I know the truth, know a bit more about my great-grandmother, and can identify something we have in common … a love for creating things with our own hands. And my children and grandchildren will now have the real story behind these treasured keepsakes.

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