On a weekend before Christmas my father’s side of the family gathered together to sort through and distribute my late grandparents’ possessions. My grandfather was a jeweller, a watchmaker, a musician, a painter, a husband, and a father among other things; my grandmother a stylish and thoughtful wife and mother.
We assembled at a dusty, echoey warehouse. An Aladdin’s cave of treasure was spread out on crates and newspapers over a small portion of the floor. The items were to be kept, sold, or given away; easier said than done. But what initially seemed a clinical task soon settled into a weekend’s worth of journeying through the greatest hits of the lives of my grandparents and their children.
The treasures revealed the music and art that had once filled the family home. Older cousins told stories of how Grandad had invited them to his studio after a bad day and cheered them up with a painting lesson, or showed them how to open the back of an old pocket watch to find the intricate clockwork and engravings hidden inside. My father recalled visiting auctions with Grandad in search of more treasure, and on other occasions returning home to the sound of his fiddle. Letters between siblings and parents were humourous, full of innocence, depth of thought, and affection. It made me sad all over again for all that’s in danger of being lost in our internet age.
As the weekend drew to a close I began to worry about letting any of these items leave our family; even a fragment of a broken vase might hold the key to another memory. Ultimately, as the treasures went their separate ways, I felt a great sense of relief. Things are physically and emotionally burdensome. Memories, with some nurture, are a lot more independent and durable than we give them credit for.
That being said, my family kindly left me with some beautiful keepsakes. Just enough for me to capture a little of my Grandparent’s style, creativity, and appreciation for art and beauty.