“My children are not interested in my heirlooms. What can I do?” I hear this question all the time from people I meet in my gallery. As an older family member, you have lived with these items for most of your life and the actual items have, in your mind, become a part of who you are.
When your adult child rejects your heirloom, you may feel they are somehow rejecting you. So we have to find a middle ground. I have five ideas that that may assist you in bridging the generational gap.
• Do your homework! Ask yourself what do I have, where is it, and what do I know about? Then start the process of attaching yourself to the item in a tangible way. If you have a household inventory or an appraisal. Make a copy and start adding personal notes beside each item. “Your Father and I bought this when we were first married,” or this “table belonged to my grandparents” (and provide their names).
• Start attaching notes to items. Example, you may have a silver tray or a cake stand you always used for your child’s birthday. Attach a note such as “Linda, do you remember your sixth birthday when I made your cake with the bluebirds and flower decorations? The cake was presented on this cake stand. I want you to have it to share with your children and grandchildren. Please think of me when you use it.” In doing this, you just attached yourself to this item making it a memory instead of a simple item.
• Attach Family Photos to Items. If you have photographs of family members standing beside this item such as your child, a grandparent, or yourself or a photo of a special room in the house, put it in an envelope addressed to the person you would like to receive it. Add a personal note why this piece hold such wonderful family memories.
• Give special heirlooms as gifts. The holidays or birthdays are great events to give a child or grandchild something that you held dear. A piece of jewelry, a special ornament, or old family photos make a great gifts, especially when it accompanied by documentation. I highly suggest a personal letter be used for this as it provides two items your family member will want to keep.
• Dishes and kitchen items may seem out of date and useless to the next generation. Take a serving dish that you used often during the time your child was growing up and add a recipe you used to cook for them and tape it to the actual item. Or give your out of date floral china to be used for your great or granddaughters special parties. They can easily be mixed with modern tableware.
Remember that items are simply things, but items holding family memories are a way to intertwine your legacy into the life of the next generation. When you are gone, the items may not have great value, but because you attached your family memories to the piece, your loved ones will also have part of you with them.
© Dr. Ken Rivenbark 2015