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Pass it Down

November 14, 2011

I don’t have children. And, for now, my partner and I agree that we will likely never have children. This doesn’t keep us from imagining how our lives would be different if we did, though. Obviously the ‘sleeping in till noon’ Saturdays would go away quickly and we’d be on a tighter budget because kids are damn expensive, but I find myself daydreaming about the bigger stuff; I dream about the legacy I’d pass down to my children and the pieces of me they’d carry forward to their own children and their children and so on until the 22nd-century kids, though likely not knowing much about me personally, might somehow be influenced for the better. That’s big stuff you parents take on…and I’m envious of it sometimes.

These thoughts came up again recently when we traveled down to South Carolina last weekend to visit M’s family. Part of that trip included a visit to M’s grandparents’ house, which now sits empty after her grandpa passed away two years ago. The family is slowly cleaning things out and trying to fix up the house to sell, which will be difficult both emotionally and in this terrible housing market. I know it’s hard for M to go into a house that was so much a part of her childhood and see it with adult eyes: the yellowing walls and the dated kitchen, the rooms where she played a little emptier each time, and, of course, her grandparents’ absence. I wandered quietly from room to room, imagining little M scampering through, her younger sis chasing her in droopy diapers, her parents in their youth (at the ages we are now) getting settled into life with children and a mortgage and careers.

I’ve seen pictures, of course, of M’s parents (both lookers then and now) with their tan skin after a week at Myrtle Beach, of M’s adorable chubby cheeks as she cracks up with teddy bear in hand, of her aunt and uncle who doted on the girls each summer when they’d go stay a few weeks, and of her grandma and grandpa curled up with M and beaming proudly. I imagine all this and wish I’d had a chance to meet them in person, but revel in the chance to hear more stories about her prankster grandpa and her chatty grandma on this trip. As I enter the kitchen, I see M and her aunt boxing up their china, taking some down from a little hutch where it was proudly displayed and digging the rest out from deep in the cabinets where it sat gathering dust between the holidays that deserved its use.

Just wanna pinch 'em!!

It’ll likely be the same for us, sitting in boxes until M’s dad comes to visit and we pull it out for nostalgia’s sake. But there’s the legacy I’m envious of, and am honestly scared is fading for future generations. Though we’ll rarely use it, having that china is like having a little piece of M’s family history and something she can pass on to a niece or maybe our own child someday sharing stories about her grandparents along with it. Having that china is saying “I remember you and I carry you with me always.”

Do young couples still pick out a china pattern?

All of this makes me want to invest in things that will last, things that will be the memory-makers for the generations after us, and things that will be a pain in the ass for those generations to lug around but they’ll do it because it’s a part of their family. We live in a disposable world. At no other time in history have people bought stuff knowing full well it’d only last a year or three. How often do you say things like “well, I got two seasons out of it and that’s pretty good for an Old Navy/Target/mall-store shirt” or “ugh, I’m not moving that couch again, I’ll just buy a new one.” ?

I'd probably leave it, too

We’ve let this be ok and producers see that it’s ok so they keep giving us disposable products that no one would think to pass down to their children. We live in little IKEA castles and get our style from Pier 1 catalogues and scoff at the prices of quality goods because we can get the “same thing” for $19.99 at the Wal-Mart. But it’s not the same and we know it. It’s a mass-produced piece of junk that will wear out faster than that investment piece took to make. I know I’m guilty of this a hundred times over because I can’t afford to buy that $3000 farmhouse table that makes me drool. But I can buy something handmade from Etsy instead of Amazon. I can go to a local craftsman instead of a big box store. I can sacrifice Pottery Barn “perfection” for more eclectic and interesting art that better represents me and my place in this world.

*want*

No one should define themselves by their stuff and I’m a true believer that your stuff will start to own you if you have too much, but I want my home to reflect my values and my lifestyle. I want people to feel warmth when they come inside. I want things that say “kick up your feet because this table has been around longer than any of us” and “make yourself at home because everything in this room was chosen especially for your visit.” I want things that mean something to us and to our guests and to the future generations, like that china we’re so blessed to have.

What will you be passing down?

Sums it up nicely

-Nicole Collins

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