Since getting engaged, I’ve been thinking about family and the future a lot. Obviously. Not just about having kids, though we do want that eventually, but more about family in a general sense.
It’s an odd feeling. I know where I am from. Who my grandparents were/are. Where they were from. In some cases I know my great-grandparents and where they were from. My Uncle has done an amazing job tracing my Dad’s family tree back quite a long way which is rather cool.
John’s family, like mine, is large. There are dramas and history and stories there. Some I’ve been told; some are hinted at; some are family lore and as such taken as given that everyone just knows these things. His family has a different way of doing things* and their own quirks and expectations. I know his parents. I’ve met most of the Aunt & Uncles. I’ve met John’s Ouma often and his Gran once. His Grandfathers sadly passed away before I knew them. I know a little bit about where they come from.
I’ve realised, that although I’ve always felt welcomed by his family, and I get along well with them for the most part, I’m no longer just The Girlfriend. I’m the new Daughter. The new Sister. We are a link in the chain. Our children will inherit both of our histories. For better or worse. Our siblings will be their Aunts and Uncles. Our nieces and nephew (in potentia so far!) will be their cousins. It’s odd to imagine us as a single step in a long long line of people that stretches back through wars, exploration, feudal times and back and back. Forward to into who knows what? My Great Grandmother was born in 1910, the year the Wright Brothers flew for the first time. In her lifetime (she died at the age of 88) she saw both World Wars, commercial flight, space flight, a man on the moon, phones, cellphone, computers. Everything we take for granted**. Who knows what the rest of my lifetime or my children’s lifetime will bring?
What’s been really special for me in the last few weeks is to have tangible reminders of the past. Things that will last and hopefully be tangible reminders for our children of our lives, and our past.
John parents have recently sold their house and are downsizing. So they’ve been selling or giving away pieces of furniture. So of the pieces are family heirlooms that have been earmarked for certain family members since forever. Other are lovely pieces that his family owns that the siblings (i.e. John, his brother and sister) got to choose.
This teak dressing table was restored by John’s Dad for his Mom. Apparently it was one of the first piece of furniture he created for them in he early day of their marriage. John’s sister used it while she still lived at home. We snagged it. It’s not old but it is beautiful and functional and solid in the way that well made, well loved wooden furniture is.
My most favourite piece though is one that was earmarked for John from the beginning. His initials are JM and so were her’s. A small connection but a lovely one. It’s a huge old leather covered wooden chest. It belonged to his paternal Great-Grandmother. It was her trousseau when she came out to SA from Yorkshire the UK in 1898. That makes this chest at least 113 years old. Probably a bit older.
I see it sitting in the lounge (as it sat in John’s parent’s lounge) and I wonder about where it’s been. What was she thinking when she packed before the ship voyage that brought her out to an unknown country. Was she scared? Excited? Think of all it’s held. Of all it will hold.
There aren’t many tangible pieces in my family. All of our family jewellery was stolen in a robbery a few years ago. It makes the diamonds in my engagement ring all the more special because they come from his maternal Great Grandmother.
I very honoured to look after these things for my children; and honoured that we’ve inherited them. It makes me even more like family.
Have you inherited anything? What was it? Where did it come from?
* Like opening presents on Christmas Eve. That’s just wrong. So wrong.
**Especially those of you reading this on an iPhone, Blackberry or iPad!