The Precious Gift of Family

Julie - Bakersfield, California
Entered on January 2, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, legacy

My home is a hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture, paintings and figurines acquired from family members both living and deceased. Some may call it eclectic or cluttered, but I call it a treasure of memories. As I walk through my home, I feel the presence of my loved ones. Each piece of furniture brings to life a vivid memory.

My grandmother’s 1920-era china cabinet, filled with her silver and white art deco- pattern dishes, makes me think of her many parties. She was the consummate hostess, beloved by family and friends. Everyone was welcome in her home.

My grandfather’s maple-colored stereo console is now filled with our collection of classic DVDs, but when I see it, I remember how he filled it with vinyl records. He loved music. Throughout his life, he amassed a huge collection of record albums of all genres of music. He catalogued and taped custom collections of music for friends and family.

My maternal grandmother’s maple table tells a story of another exceptional person in my life. My grandmother struggled courageously against poverty and tragedy. Brought to California by ravages of the Dust Bowl, she worked long hours in the fields and packing sheds of DiGiorgio Farms to make a better life for her family. Only in later years did she acquire any items of value—one of which was her prized maple table which she kept polished and perfect. It is now used at holiday and birthday celebrations to seat the next generation of family whom she did not live long enough to know.

On the walls of my home hang the paintings of my father and uncle. I remember how my father worked at a card table in his tiny bedroom creating the street scene of his favorite city-San Francisco, patiently tolerating the noise and chaos of his young family moving around him in the cramped quarters of our old home. My uncle’s imaginative watercolor paintings tell the story of a brilliant artist whose dreams of an art career were never realized due to financial hardship and the demands of family.

In another section of my home is what we call the “Hall of Frames”—black and white photos of past generations. Each photo shows an occupation, a talent unique to that individual—my father as a photojournalist, my mother and great grandmother as teachers, my grandfather as a bank manager, my husband’s father as a winemaker and his grandfathers as a machinist and Italian police officer. They all tell a story of courage, hard work and determination. The faces look out to us as if to say, remember what we accomplished –you can do it, too.

I believe in precious gift of my family. The stories of each generation, the unique personalities and experiences serve as an inspiration and guide. I honor them and sustain their memory in my home.