I love family heirlooms. They add history and a sense of historical continuity to a home. I don’t have a large number, but I have several nice pieces that I cherish. These lamps, here, for instance, are from Nanny (they’re only from the 1950’s or so, but I love them anyway). And the ivory elephants on the right (you can barely see them, and they’re tiny) — they were my great-grandmother’s, and they came from Africa. She had them in several sizes, from a big black one to the teeny tiniest one, and I always thought they were fascinating — I used to stand on a chair and play with them on the fireplace mantel. (The elephants are the first thing I’d grab if there were some sort of catastrophic emergency.)
But, as I was discussing with one of my customers earlier today, not everyone can have family heirlooms. And when you’re the third generation around, like I am, you get third dibs after everyone in all the other generations has had their pick (if you’re lucky).
So, to make up the difference, you adopt strangers’ heirlooms and love them like your own. I have no idea, for instance, who owned my 1903 Vogue magazines and stored them lovingly for years until some descendant eBay-ed them for $5 apiece. And other things are gifts from people who knew I’d appreciate them — like the early 1900’s petticoats and dress from a lady at church. But whether I know their history or not, I love these things just as much as my heirlooms. It’s like Peter Bailey says in It’s a Wonderful Life — “But they’re somebody’s children, Mr. Potter!” They’re somebody’s heirlooms, Mr. Potter — and they’re still heirlooms, even if they’re adopted.