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Friday, February 16, 2007


Family heirlooms sometimes carry a curse. Not the kind of curse in fairy tales, but more a curse of expectation and responsibility... For my 21st birthday, my youngest sister, Jill, gave me a beautiful crystal wine glass, on which she'd had engraved, "21st". A truly thoughtful gift, but one that didn't seem right to use after that particular birthday. I kept it in the back of the kitchen cupboard, and carefully wrapped it in newspaper every time I moved over the years. Eventually I stopped unpacking it, leaving it in the box of "unused things I can't get rid of", out in the storage shed. I'd taken a perfectly lovely gift and turned it into a dreaded family heirloom...

Recently, my daughter, Lauren's, 21st birthday came around. I remembered that glass, and finally brought it out, unwrapped the layers of old newspaper, and hand washed it until it sparkled again. I gave it to Lauren on her birthday, and of course she loved it and the sentimental story that went with it. It had traveled years from my 21st birthday to hers. But neither of us knew that it had a curse attached...

She took the glass back to school with her, and placed it high on a bookshelf to keep it safe. But a stack of books slipped sideways and knocked the glass off the shelf, shattering it into a zillion shards all over her desk, her computer, and the carpet. Poor Lauren was in tears when she called me, still standing in the middle of the broken pieces. I told her to sweep up the glass she could see, vacuum the carpet twice, and then wipe everything down with a wad of wet paper towels. I know what to do with broken glass.

The rest of the cleanup was a little more difficult. It took some thoughtful words and determined convincing to get her to understand that it was OK that the glass was broken. It's good that the glass is broken. I'd hauled that thing around for 28 years, from my birthday to hers, and it had completed it's mission. No way did I want her to feel obligated to do the same. Over the years, the weight of the "value" of the thing would become too much for someone. When that glass broke, a lot of future people were spared a lot of effort and silly responsibility...

And just like that, the curse was lifted, and we move on to things more important.

3 comments:

Mary Timme said...

Hi Kim,

I have made it a rule of long standing to never cry over something that couldn't cry back. I also am about the most unsentimental person on earth for a female, but I have never believed a picture is a memory, but a picture can jog my memory. So many times we let things 'curse' us when there is no need.

Anonymous said...

oh kim, that story certainly does hit home!! we tend to put so much value on THINGS and not so much on what their true meaning is.....again, your story touched my soul, your daughter is very fortunate! !! also, we, or, rather i save things and sometimes never enjoy them because of the beauty or price tag.......or even sentimentality, thanks for your beautifully written words of wisdom.......now, if only i could practice them!!! LOL!! joyce

Michelle said...

Poor Lauren, Kim, hope she feels a lot better now, made me think of this lovely song by Jackson Browne ~ 'It was a ruby that she wore
On a chain around her neck
In the shape of a heart
It was a time I won't forget
For the sorrow and regret
And the shape of a heart
I guess I never knew
What she was talking about
I guess I never knew
What she was living without
People speak of love don't know what they're thinking of
Wait around for the one who fits just like a glove
Speak in terms of belief and belonging
Try to fit some name to their longing
You keep it up
You try so hard
To keep a life from coming apart
And never know
What breaches and faults are concealed
In the shape of a heart...'
maybe if you make a nice new heart it will help to heal...much love, Michelle/England x