When my grandmother died a half-century ago, my grandfather asked my mother and her four sisters to take anything they wanted from their household possessions. The five sisters therefore proceeded to catalog the items on a sheet with three columns each sister could check: 1) not interested, 2) I’d like this if no one else wants it, or 3) I really, really want this.
When the list was compiled, my mother and all my aunts discovered that it was very easy to make the final decisions. Jean really, really wanted the painting that had hung in the living room, but only Dora indicated any interest at all, and none of the others wanted it. Peg and Ruth would each take the little sewing basket (rather than have it thrown away), but since Allie really, really wanted it, it was just fine that Allie take the sewing basket. So all down the list they went, easily and happily agreeing on the right home for each family treasure.
And then they came to the bud vase—a beautiful silver vase just asking to display one lovely rose. All five sisters had checked that they really, really wanted that bud vase. It had been in the family such a long time. No one was willing to relinquish an interest in it, so they formed a Grand Plan. They would each take turns keeping it for a while—maybe five or six months—and then hand carry it to another sister’s home in the course of visiting. That bud vase graced tables and shelves in Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Colorado, and California for the next forty years . . . until there was only one sister living.
Enter the next generation—my generation—the seven daughters of these five sisters. Our generation knew how important the bud vase was to our mothers and aunts, so when the last aunt was gone and it was time to clear out her household, we decided to continue the tradition. Now the bud vase has a new life, residing with one or another of us in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, New Jersey, Washington, Pennsylvania, or Maine. It’s a symbol of the deep bond the five sisters had and now we cousins have.
And what will become of the silver vase when the last of our generation is gone? From five sisters to seven daughters to sixteen grandchildren? It’s not the bud vase itself that is important. It’s the love of family, the interest in and caring about each other’s lives that matters. That quality is already showing up full strength in those adult grandchildren and in how they are bringing up the youngest generation to enjoy family. The spirit of the bud vase lives on.
About today’s contributor: Marty Walton has been part of the Association of Personal Historians since the organization’s beginnings in 1995. She joined the board as treasurer in 2003 and served as Operations Manager from 2005 to 2011 and returned to the board as treasurer for 2012. Now partially retired, she and partner Linda Lyman still work with long-term clients through their business, The Storehouse Collection of Memories.