Safeguarding Memories

The sky was filled with low clouds, and the wind was causing the tree branches to sway violently. Weather reports suggested tornadoes could develop in our area, so I began to think what I might move to the basement for safekeeping. I saw the row of scrapbooks on the living room shelf and considered how heavy they all were. How many trips up and down the stairs it would take to move them all? Even if I moved them, would rain water still ruin them if our home sustained serious storm damage?

I turned instead to my bedroom and gathered my jewelry. My wedding set I wear always, but there are other special memories and relationships represented by pieces that I don’t wear every day, but are still meaningful to me. The gold filigree pendant my great-grandmother, grandmother, and I all wore on our wedding days, the pearls my father brought back from Vietnam when his tour of duty was over and he could be reunited with my mother and meet me for the first time, colorful earrings bought as souvenirs on trips, little gifts from friends…

In space no bigger than a bread box, I have collected tangible reminders of family and friends, the births of my children, my husband’s thoughtfulness at birthdays and anniversaries, and this is what I carried quickly and easily to the basement.

Like many people, I’ve read articles on decluttering, and I’ve more than once urged extended family to consider giving us the gift of an experience, rather than a “thing” at holidays and birthdays. But tangible reminders of love have their place as well. A piece of jewelry made with care from materials that will stand the test of time can be passed through the generations, linking family together. A charm bracelet could recall special vacations, a watch might mark the time of a graduation or retirement, a ring or pendant the endurance of a spouse’s love.

As the storm intensified, my teenaged daughter noticed what I’d brought to the basement and decided she should bring her jewelry box downstairs as well. I’m sure she was thinking of her grandparents, who’ve given her some special gifts, and her aunt, whose wedding delighted her as a young flower girl.

The storm passed us by, and we carried our jewelry back up to our rooms. I’d choose to try to safeguard those memories again, when another storm threatens.