Heirlooms are curious objects because they can have enormous value that has nothing to do with money. We could get sentimental and say that it's all about heart, hearth and home, but maybe it's about all those things and something more, too. Take the case of the hardworking, professional mom who inherits assorted sewing gear from her grandmother. One day she's looking for a needle and thread, picks up the sewing basket and realizes that the simple act of sewing is something that she shares with untold generations of women in her family who worked, in their case with needle and thread, to make life better for their husbands and children. It's a glimpse of the past and a bridge to a new understanding of how the world has changed, but still, somehow, stays the same.
Ok, so not all heirlooms come with a built-in aha! moment attached, but they carry a lot of weight. When you read about people running into burning buildings, what do they grab once the kids and pets are safe? They save pictures, scrapbooks and family mementos. They protect irreplaceable family photos, letters and diaries. They save personal history in objects that reflect that history. With any luck, one day someone will pass a little family history along to you in the shape of a PEZ Dispenser, ring, watch, hope chest or photo album. Whatever it is, it'll be a link to your heritage, a clue to what you come from and maybe a glimpse of where you're going. That's so much cooler than anything you could buy at the mall.