Family Heirlooms, Family Lore

My  husband and I have very different memories of growing up.  He grew up moving around to different parts of the country at different parts of his childhood and I, well, lived in the same town until I went off to college, which was still in within an hour’s driving distance of home.  He grew up in the Midwest, I grew up solidly in the heart of the South.  His roots are from Nebraska, mine are from Georgia.  The one thing we agree we have in common, history-wise, is that our folks have been American for as long as we can trace back.  He claims a relative from the Mayflower, I claim one who fought in the Revolutionary War.

In discussion with my husband’s mother one day a long time ago, we had a conversation about family oral history.  You see, I grew up sitting on both sets of grandparents’ porches, listening to tales of  relatives long dead.  This was not an experience my husband or his family had growing up, this drililng of the histories into their brains.  As a child, it just went in one of my ears and out the other with bits and pieces sticking.  But as I grew up, I grew to value very much the fact that I knew so many personal stories from my relatives, both relatives I’d known myself and relatives who’d been dead for 100 years or more.  It baffled me to no end that J’s family didn’t talk about their relatives this way.  L, J’s mom, put it very well, though, when she said something along the lines of, “I guess our people were too busy out doing things to talk much about it.”  I liked and very much respected how she put that, somehow.

There’s a lot in the family lore.  I have a great-great-grandfather that was the tallest man in Henry County during his time.  As most of my living relatives were tall themselves, this made a big impression on me as a child.  I can tell you that Minnie was my grandmother’s aunt and that my grandmother spent an inordinate amount of time being spoiled by Minnie and her daughter Inez, much like my own aunt spoils me and my family to this day.  Minnie and Inez made my grandmother beautiful clothes; Minnie made hats as a profession.  I can also tell you that when Inez married Grady, that she decided to go be a Baptist because Grady’s family was Baptist and Inez felt like that was the right thing to do.  But, and I don’t know if it would shock the Stockbridge Baptists to know this or not:  as a Sunday School teacher, Inez continued to order her materials from the Presbyterian curriculum.  That gives my family, of which I am a 4th generation Presbyterian, a good deal of giggles when it comes up.

As you may gather, Minnie and Inez continue to be special ladies to my family.  Minnie was the oldest of lots of children and my great-grandfather Ben was the baby of the family.  Inez and her husband Grady had no children but they took on my family as their own.  I have the same name as Minnie’s and my great-grandfather’s mother, Caroline Hightower Turner.

This week, I was given two very special family heirlooms.  Here is a fragmented picture of them both:

The deer was painted by either Minnie or Inez, for sure.  We think that it was painted by Inez because Minnie signed her pieces.  The rocking chair that is in the foreground belonged to my great-great-grandmother, Caroline Hightower Turner.  My Nannie says that for as long as she can remember, the chair stayed beside Minnie’s bed.

Antiques are in style right now, but I have no interest in going out to buy random antiques.  I love, love, love the pieces I have inherited because I know the stories behind the people who originally cared for them.




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