Your kids probably got your long eyelashes and button nose. They probably also inherited your fiery temper and your cat allergy. They may even get their hands on Grandma's grand piano, or maybe the turn-of-the-century home that's been in the family for years. You want your children to remember you when you're gone, but what if you don't have any heirloom-quality possessions worth giving? If you have nothing of any financial value to pass down, don't worry. The things that matter to your descendants don't necessarily have to be worth money to be important. Sometimes, emotional value far outweighs any financial worth, so keep this in mind when choosing what you'll pass down to your family.
So how do you decide what to pass down? The personal effects discussed on the next page may give you some ideas.
Consider items of yours that your kids identify as an important part of your life as potential heirlooms. A treasured collection of books or even one favorite book that is well worn from the many times you read it could be heirloom material. What about religious books, especially a personalized bible or prayer books that you've used as a family? Do you have scrapbooks of photos and clippings from your childhood? Old photos connect your children with their ancestry. When kids are young, they're especially curious about their parents' past, so make the scrapbook like a storybook. These characters will become alive to them, and they'll remember the stories to pass down to their children.
Family recipes are often valued heirlooms. Many small businesses have begun with Aunt Helen's famous cookie recipe. And even if you don't plan to start a business venture, making familiar and beloved meals are excellent ways to preserve your family history while connecting with one another. If cooking just isn't you, then consider that handcrafted items are always a great way to remember someone. Ornaments you made as a child that hung on your Christmas tree every year will be just as valued by your kids. You can also save baby clothes and blankets or quilts you made or bought. Pretty much anything that reminds them of you will be special.
What makes your personal effects special is the history behind them. Next up, we'll look at family traditions that serve as heirlooms.
Do you open presents on Christmas Eve? Have spaghetti dinner on the first day of school? Family game night every Friday evening? Traditions from their childhood are great things to pass down to your children. Memories are often just as treasured as possessions, and well-worn family stories are prominent at family gatherings. Most likely, funny stuff your mother, aunt or grandmother said or did as children has become part of your family's oral history. If you've kept this going with your own children, you've given them a gift that's more valuable than a diamond ring or hope chest.
In addition to stories, hobbies that you share with your family are also revered. Do you have a passion for gardening? Share it with your children. Then, as adults, they will think of you and feel connected to you when they garden. The items you use during your traditions also make wonderful heirlooms -- the tablecloth your grandmother used for Thanksgiving dinner or the menorah your mother lit during Hanukkah.
Create or Purchase an Heirloom
If you really don't have anything that you think is worth passing down to your children, you can always buy something. The key is to choose a timeless item that will outlast trends. A piece of jewelry is always a good bet, as are items that can be worn at weddings and passed through the generations. A sterling silver charm bracelet is another item that never goes out of style. A beautiful piece of furniture is always coveted by someone in the family. Be sure to choose something that's traditional in style and made with craftsmanship that stands out. If money is an object, make something with your own hands. Paint a painting, or draw a picture. Create a scrapbook of memories. Write a story, especially if it has to do with your life. Build a bench or sculpt a garden piece. Make a quilt, or record yourself telling a story or singing a song. Whatever it is, make it personal and poignant so it will always be reminiscent of you.
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