Memories and Milk Glass

Last night the Verkaik women gathered together for a girl’s night.  We joined up to laugh, devour appetizers and catch up.  We try to do this any time the “out of towners” come back for our summer visits.

However, last nights gathering had a unique purpose, to absorb the history of all the dishes, antiques and memories that fill up my Grandmother’s curio cabinets and shelves.  To divide and receive, so that we may eventually take these heirlooms and integrate them into our own homes and stories.

There was a silent battle for milk glass, a confused googling over what exactly a “hummel” is and a hilarious roar when we found a little german sculpture of a naked couple intertwined in a passionate embrace.  We decided that our unmarried cousins must use this as a cake topper…. come on ladies, please?

At one point my Aunt Ruth commented that all this colored glass and delft made up my Grandma’s life, spoke of her journey, her memories.

These dainty cups and delicate plates came from California, Vietnam and Washington.   A few pieces remained from my great grandmother’s original journey across the Atlantic from The Netherlands to America.

There is something about a tea kettle that floated past lady liberty in an old wooden trunk that takes my breath away.  So much hope, and adventurous fear contained in a small silver vessel.

We each left that night with a piece of my Grandmother’s story, but more than anything we could hold in our hands we all left with a deep sense that our most cherished gift was the gift being a woman of this family.

We’re daughters, nieces and granddaughters, whether by birth or marriage, who will carry this family into the future.  We will retell and create the stories of “us.”

Of course we will cherish the vases and plates and retell their stories, but more than that we will carry and tend the flame of identity that is infused into our blood and bones.

Every time we gather I feel inner warmth and each time we part I feel less complete for the distance.

I’m honored to be a woman in this story, my grandmother’s second granddaughter, chosen to carry her legacy into the future.  To glimpse of her life in delicate blue delft and share it, and so much more with my own daughter and granddaughters.   I will teach my Daughter to love almond paste, appreciate delft and make blueberry buckle and pea soup.

Lineage, we all have a story that spans forward and backward from this very moment.  We are all part of some collective “we” and if your family has left you story-less, I must remind you that we are brothers and sisters together you and I.  Loved children of a God whose story includes all families in an infinitely redemptive tale that has neither a beginning, nor an end.

Today, may you see all that you carry and cherish, and may you share it into the future.


photo compliments of bsidemetalworks

There is something soulful about the word heirloom, and I’m not talking about the tomatoes, although I am a big fan of those too.  In our current usage heirloom means something special, almost sacred, that is inherited or passed down, a keepsake worth cherishing and keeping safe.

A few months ago I posted about the boxes I inherited when I was in Michigan last summer.  Honestly they’re still mostly sitting there in the corner, the funeral guest books, the photos.  Today I walked by the photo albums and lifted them onto the bed, sorting through them one by one.  Spread out before me were grainy and yellowed pictures of my parents when they were dating, sitting in camp chairs or on the backs of cars.  My mom holding new babies and my dad reading to all three of us on his old beige lazy boy.

I couldn’t help but tear up because I miss being a family, being together.  When I look at some of the last photos of my dad I feel like I’m almost looking thru his chest and right at his heart, wishing we would have known that it was failing.  As I looked through all of those old photos I felt strangely sad and inspired all at the same time.  As I remembered where I came from, the photos with the goofy haircuts and bad wallpaper, I felt more “me” than I had been before I sifted through the photos.

The fact is that my life and the way I live it is the true heirloom that my parents left behind.  They had struggles and they made some mistakes but when I look over the photos of birthday parties and halloweens something inside me connects with all that they hoped and prayed I would become.  They weren’t the only two that raised me either, I was nourished and tended to by a village of aunts, uncles and cousins as well.  I was raised by a village, and they passed on heirlooms that go even farther beyond the memories seen in those yellowed photos.

My walk with God- an heirloom, the most precious one they gave me

My strong work ethic- an heirloom, one that serves me well… most of the time

My love of food- an heirloom, so many of our traditions center around food and family gathered ’round.

My dedication to my own family- an heirloom, one I hope never fades in my lineage.

The way I wake up, pray, serve, love and strive, the passion and wisdom I carry around in my heart, these are the real heirlooms.  When I combine them with the memories that we made together in tents and living rooms year after year I discover that they are what I cherish most.

Fond memories and strong character, they are an heirloom of such great value that they transcend a monetary figure.

What heirlooms are you carrying inside that you cherish?  What are you investing in now that future generations will love to carry on?

Dear Lord, give us tunnel vision to use every moment to build into our communities and families strong heirlooms that will build a legacy that brings your heaven to earth.  Free us from our baggage, our vices and our past so that we can move where you want us to move.  Amen and Thank you.