Keepsakes and Legacies

Years ago, I had a conversation with a co-worker about keepsakes. And when I mean keepsakes, I mean personal items that an individual wishes to pass on to a family member or friend that would appreciate the sentiment behind such a gift. It could be anything from a simple chotski to artwork, or even large pieces of furniture.

This co-worker told me the story about a bedroom set that belonged to her grandmother, which was also passed down from her grandmother from the mid 1800’s. It was a beautiful set, she told me. Very simple, yet classic. It was also something that her grandmother passed down to her, as her grandmother knew that she loved the set.

So then this co-worker asked if I ever had anything “passed down” to me from the previous generations. I admit, I had to think about it for a second. The nurse in me thought … “Duh, yeah. My big butt for instance. And my nose. And the shape of my head.” But then I realized, those were physical genetic traits that were passed down to me from my parents and their parents, etc.

The short answer to the question my co-worker asked me was no. Yes, there have been clothes passed on or an occasional headboard or shelf or table. But those were more for utilitarian purposes. Actual “keepsakes” or “antiques” (if that’s what you wish to call it … )? No. Not really.

Not having any real “keepsakes” from other family members isn’t because I come from a family that doesn’t “believe” in passing things down to the next generation. For me, I believe it’s more or less because I am a first generation Asian/Filipino-American.

Both my Mom and my Dad were born and raised in the Philippines; coming to this side of the hemisphere (separately, and not knowing each other at the time) once they were done with their studies. As they were both young, neither of them traveled with more than what they needed to live in what would be their new “home.” With that said, when they eventually met and married … there was little for them to combine once they moved to Detroit and settled into daily living. In fact, much of what they bought for their new home, again was utilitarian more than something of significant value or sentiment.

And perhaps because it’s something that women often think about, my Mom and I have had random conversations in the past about what she wants to pass on to her children. While, she has already passed on her love of books and art (along with her knowledge in science) to both my brother and me, there is one thing she’s told me is that she’s always wanted to pass on to us. And that would be those special stones or rings or necklaces/earrings that my Dad has given to her over the years; those sentimental “jewelry” pieces that she still keeps. Because, as she herself said, there isn’t much other than her jewelry that she feels she can “leave behind” for her children. Or her grandchildren.


While cleaning out his side of our dresser last week, Hubby stumbled on a jewelry box. And inside this jewelry box were two rings made of Chinese gold. Other than size, these rings were identical and, if pressed into hot wax, would produce a heart-shaped “embroidered” Chinese floral pattern.

Hubby holds these rings dear to him … not because they’re made of Chinese gold and represent his half-Filipino/half-Chinese heritage. And not because they were simply a gift from his parents.

Rather these rings were something that Hubby wore when he was just a child. The first ring was given to him when he was just a baby; most likely to celebrate his birth. And the second ring … that one was given to him before his parents (who met and married in the Philippines) left to prepare a home for him and his sister in the U.S.

Both rings remind him of his youth; of his time back in the Philippines. And anyone that knows Hubby, he has always had a hard time with memories. So for him to reflect back at what little he remembers from his early years in the Philippines … well, that’s just something to treasure.

286When Hubby found the jewelry box that held these rings this past Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel sad. After all these were rings that I know Hubby hoped to pass down to his own children. Those same children that would be his legacy. The children that would pass on all of his heritages; his Chinese, Filipino and American backgrounds. The children that would make up half of his genetic traits (perhaps a future comic book artist?). Those same children who would pass on his name.

As I looked up at Hubby, I knew he was thinking the same thing. And all I could say to him was “Sorry.” Yet, (and I must add, I know this is illogical … ) somehow that just never seem to be enough.

Because honestly … not only do I feel as if I’ve deprived him of the ability to be a wonderful father, I feel as if I’ve “robbed” him of the ability to pass on his traits, his skills … his legacy.

6 Replies to “Keepsakes and Legacies”

  1. I understand too.

    One evening at FIL’s, when both we & BIL & SIL were still newlyweds, FIL brought out a big plastic baggie that he’d retrieved from his safety deposit box. Inside was a jumble of jewelry — most of it gold, & most of it belonging to my late MIL, but a few pieces (rings, bracelets) that were clearly baby jewelry. Dh & BIL figured out which pieces were theirs, & then FIL encouraged SIL & I to divvy up the rest (!). I think both of us felt funny doing it, so eventually the guys basically drew a line down the centre & I got half & SIL got half. I will eventually give “my” half to the nephews, since it’s their grandmother’s. Most of it is not really my style, so I don’t wear it. I keep it all in our own safety deposit box at the bank.

  2. i remember what that feeling was like-horrible. people always make fun of cate’s ginormous ears. i love-b/c they are just like her dads–and i remember how freakin’ sad it is to think of those ears not happening.
    i am sorry. it does suck. i hope the universe throws a lotta love and luck your way. it’d only be fair.

  3. I totally understand. I’ve been feeling a bit of it from the other side, myself. My mom gave my grandmother’s engagement ring to my brother so he could use it as an engagement ring for his now-fiancee. It’s no secret that she favors my brother (she spent her entire visit here -to be here for my (MY) graduation- talking about all the fabulous things he is doing right now- getting married, buying a house, got a big fellowship for his PhD studies, fiancee got a *great* job in her field, etc.), but really? My brother didn’t even know her! I loved that woman, and now, her heirloom jewelry that passed from mother to daughter (and should have been mine to pass to my future child) has just skipped right past me. It’s no secret that my mom doesn’t want me to have kids, but jeez. To just presume that this heirloom should go to a woman (who I love, but none the less) who has her own mother to give her family heirlooms- well, it just pisses me off. It’s like a total vote of no-confidence in my reproductive/mothering abilities. Grrrrrrr!

    Ahem. Anyhow, here’s hoping that somehow we both end up with our own traditions to pass on, to whomever we pass them on to.

  4. Ugh…it is amazing how little things can squeeze our heart just so…

    It’s like we can never completely escape from the pain of infertility. There will always be something to remind us of what we can’t have.

    Sorry sweetie! I’m right there with ya today!


  5. I’m so sorry, Em. I saved this post in my reader so I could come and comment. I’m so sorry. This post just…broke my heart.

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