Squawk Radio

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Liz on Family Memorabilia

I was over at my mom’s last night, and she gave me something she’d come across while going through some old stuff she’d found. It was a recipe for buttermilk biscuits, something that is fairly commonplace in my family. But this one, she knew, would interest me, not just because it was written down by my great-grandmother, who died when I was fairly young, but because of the final ingredient: “Lard (size duck egg).” Even better, on the other side of the card, because the original recipe was for 42 biscuits (as was needed for a family of 19), my grandmother pared it down to 18 biscuits, and her final ingredient is: “Lard size of walnut.”

I’ve officially designated this card, with both my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s handwriting and whimsical instructions, A Bevarly Family Heirloom, and it has gone into the Heirloom Box. Mine is a family of few heirlooms (obviously), mostly what Flannery O’Connor called “good country people” on both sides until my parents’ generation. (And yes, with a bit of a surreal, dark side, just like in the short story of that title.) I have a few pieces of inexpensive jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and her mother, some blueprints from machinery that my grandfather designed between the two World Wars, a WWII ration book with a few pages of coupons left, an old arithmetic book, and lots of photographs. Save the jewelry, it’s all ephemera, which, come to think of it, is fitting for a writer.

I don’t know how I became the Keeper of the Family Heirlooms, but what few we claim have all seemed to find their way to me. Even my father-in-law’s WWII journal is in our keeping, though my f-i-l is still very much alive. But I love having all these bits of everyday life from previous generations. They were commonplace (even throwaway, some of them) items to my ancestors, but they tell me so much about those people. They tell me even more about where I come from myself.

I just hope I leave something behind for my descendants that’s as enchanting as a recipe quoting duck eggs. Yes, I’ve written books, but I’d like for my son’s children’s children’s children to have something a bit more personal. So maybe I should tuck something of myself into the Heirloom Box before it’s too late. But what?

Wait, I have it. The perfect piece of ephemera to remember me by. It’s a drawing of me as a chicken, sporting a lovely purple muff...

So has anyone else stumbled onto any old family treasures lately? What’s your favorite piece of family history to pass down to the next generation? What piece of your own everyday life do you think would say the most about you to your descendants?
Elizabeth Bevarly, 8:28 AM