keepsakes tell our stories

Walking around the neighborhood on a beautiful spring afternoon, I notice the sounds of the birds, the sights of the budding trees and flowers, and the feel of the sun’s rays. I also notice the boxes and packages piled up on almost every front step. 

Our homes are filled with so much stuff – furniture, electronics, exercise equipment, books, clothing and tchotchkes. Many of us keep cartons of belongings up in the attic or down in the basement or pay for storage units. We acquire this abundance of possessions over a lifetime but what do we actually cherish?

Cherished items present a tangible connection to a special person or time in our lives. Handwritten family recipe cards tucked into a small box, an etched glass vase or a handmade quilt can be reminders that link us to precious moments and family stories. These sentimental keepsakes deserve to be on display, not packed away in a cardboard box.

Keeping Connections

My father’s parents were born in Hungary and met after they had each moved to New York around 1913. Grandma Kovach died before I turned three years old. I didn’t get to know her but I wish I did.

As children, my brother and I visited my grandfather in the two-bedroom apartment where my dad had grown up. I liked to walk from room to room looking at every photograph and knick-knack. In the living room, small ceramic figurines were displayed on top of a wooden trestle table. A brown and white cow, a calf, and a smiling girl in a yellow and blue outfit with braided hair were my favorites. I remember carefully carrying each delicate object down to the carpeted floor to play with under that trestle table.

After my grandfather passed away, I asked for a few items to remember my Grandma Kovach. I selected an Art Deco eight-day clock and a photograph of my grandmother as a young woman carrying a parasol. Of course, I requested the ceramic cow and calf and the girl with the braids. These items were not antique collectibles crafted in the old country. The cow was stamped “made in Japan.” But they had belonged to Grandma Kovach so they were special to me. In every place I have lived over the years, from my childhood bedroom in Queens to my first apartment in Manhattan and my homes in Westchester, I cherish and display these special family keepsakes.

Memories in Every Room

Susan Grissom of Pound Ridge likes to surround herself with cherished family objects. Born and raised in Jackson, Tennessee, Susan moved to Westchester in 2001. “I can look around this room and my family is here,” she said, describing the Gothic-style wooden clock with its spires and columns from her childhood home that now rests on her fireplace mantel. Susan also displays her family’s copper kettle and still uses her mother’s sweet potato casserole dish from the 1940s, as a reminder of family holidays. “These objects help you keep your memories.”

She points out even more family treasures, including a desk her father salvaged from the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Station in Jackson. “It means a lot to have something from historic Jackson.”

A mixed-media artist and photographer, Grissom manages collections at the Pound Ridge Historical Society. Items saved by early Westchester residents include carpentry and gardening tools, a 1920s sewing kit, a wool and silk shawl from the 1800s, along with musical instruments.

Every family keepsake tells a story. We cherish these items not for their monetary value but for the currency of memories. These keepsakes honor the people and places they evoke. What are your cherished possessions?

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