“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family.” – Thomas Jefferson
My father passed away June 2, 1999. My mother, more recently on November 11, 2014. As an only child, the very emotional task of going through my family home and my mother’s personal effects fell on my and Sandra’s shoulders. And, there were times I felt my shoulders could no longer bear the weight.
Walking through the house, all alone. Hearing past laughter and football games blaring on the television. Cleaning the basement where my mother spent hours mending, ironing and washing clothes. Standing by the dining room table, which hosted so many glorious family dinners. All this – difficult beyond difficult.
As I looked around, I noticed furniture, pictures, and objects; Yet I never really saw them until after everyone was gone. In my room, my baby chair. That chair remained in the corner of my bedroom for 62 years. There were the two glass candle sconces which sat on each end of our buffet for as long as I can remember. The base was seahorses surrounded by dangling crystals. The globes were etched with images of grapes, fruit and leaves. My mother never lit the candles for fear of breaking the paper-thin globes. There was a picture of my grandfather, Jules Lambiotte, in World War I with two of his buddies – fellow “Dough Boys.”
Going through my mother’s chest of memories was one of the hardest days. There were pictures of her as a child, a teenager, special friends, her beloved German Shepherd, Ranger – all I had seen before. However, buried in one corner of her memory box was a tiny wedding and diamond engagement ring. Rings I had never seen. As I picked them up, I found myself saying, “Mom, were these yours? Was this the ring dad gave you when he proposed? Was this the wedding ring he slipped onto your finger when you were married? Questions without answers.
When I picked up my baby chair I wondered, “Where did this come from? Was it a present from my grandparents?” When I was carefully packing the candle sconces, I asked, “Mom, what is their story? I bet they came from a fine store uptown.” My grandfather’s picture from World war I, he’s the one on the right. I thought, “Who were the other two soldiers? Did you fight together? Where in France did you serve? Did they come home with you?” Questions without answers.
Other than the rings, I had admired these family pieces for years, but never knew their story. They were always right in front of me. Why did I not ask, “Mom, Dad, where did these come from? Granddad, tell me about these men. Tell me about your service.” It was then I realized how much of my life – my family, I had taken for granted. And, it makes me sad. For, “Now, it’s too late.”
For me, and perhaps you as well, knowing the history behind decades-old family pieces was always important. To this day, I still do not understand how these went unexplained. Please, learn from my lapses. Create “Family Memory Times.” Share your stories. Write a letter and place it behind a special photo or painting. Leave a note in your memory box. Hand-written personal letters about special things and events become memories for future generations. For there will come a time, all too soon, when you will be gone. And, those you have loved, and have loved you will say, “Thank you. This was important.”
Until next time,
- Photo of Jules Lambiotte in World War I with two of his buddies.
- Baby chair
- Glass candle sconces
- Wedding and diamond engagement ring