It began with silverware. Not any old spoons, knives or forks…but my grandma’s “Community Chest” silver, stored in a wooden box with velveteen lining. She used it for the holidays, Sunday night sandwiches or any other get-together for her brood.
Grandma had eight children. Each of those kids, with the exception of my mom (the youngest daughter), had 5-8 kids of their own — and nearly all were older. When Grandma died, the only ‘fair’ way to deal with her estate, according to her executors, was to offer everything in one giant sale.
That was fine for my cousins — nearly all had their own homes, were married and working. I was in high school, and getting the munificent sum of $1.50 an hour at the hardware store. Grandma’s things — her paintings, furniture, even the stuffed deer head that hung on the living room wall — were far out of my reach. Her dishes, Christmas ornaments and quilts all sold to wealthier cousins. One of the few items I could even think about purchasing was a Mexican blanket (at $2) and the silverware. Its price tag read $10.
I still remember how much that amount represented. I was trying to pay for all of my expenses, and saving for college, as well. (My folks were farmers, and not making much.) It made no sense to buy a box of silverware I couldn’t use — much less afford. I bought the blanket.
My aunt purchased the silverware, and used it for years during Thursday night suppers for her family. Then she gave the chest to her oldest daughter. Who called me, four decades later.
“Remember that silverware of Grandma’s that you liked?” (I’d admired it during a visit to my aunt’s long before.) “I never use it — do you want it, instead?”
I was heading to teach in Washington state, where her brother lived. He picked it up from his sister during a family visit, then passed it on to me when we stopped at his church. When I lifted the cover of that wooden box and saw the worn silverplate against the now-faded velveteen, I couldn’t help it — I burst into tears. Something of my beloved grandmother was part of my life again.
We used the silverware for Christmas. My daughters, born more than a decade after Grandma’s death, were not impressed at first when they handled the dull knives and thinning spoons. I told them the story. “Remember, dears,” I said. “When I’m gone, one of you will be lucky enough to get this for your own.”
Why am I telling you this? Because the most important things in life don’t cost the most. They’re the items connected with good memories, wonderful events, or the ones you love. To others, they may cost very little. But to your family…they’re priceless.
Don’t forget: value what’s most important.
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