Objects passed down through generations are dear to us in our memories and our hearts. Yes, of course, the Chippendale chest is valuable and you can get a pretty penny if you happen to sell a Rothko or a Sargent, but we are not discussing life-changing assets here, I am talking about personal mementos, family heirlooms that mean much more than their actual value. These items remind us of loved ones, memories of happy times and good feelings.
When I moved from Madrid, Spain to the US about... oh gosh more than 30 some years ago, I brought with me a few of those personal items that reminded me of my life in Spain. I remember walking through our house with my mother and picking up a few things (that could fit in a suitcase) that would then become my heirlooms. She gave me the silver brush and toilette set that belonged to her mother with our beautiful initials (I am the third Victoria), a silver inkwell with our coat of arms and a gold lighter that had belonged to my father. I was also given a silver bowl that my parents had received as a wedding present and the gifts that I had received from my godparents when I was born. Among our many wedding presents these few items represented to me where I am from. Family history and provenance, roots and belonging. I don't need to see them to feel secure, but it is nice to have them around and, in moments of doubt, remind myself of those moments of great expectation and excitement for a new life.
Besides a few mementos, what I really brought with me is much more than a few silver things. I have honored my heritage and my parent's way of doing things, of behavior, of forms of civility. I believe in giving back, in high standards of behavior, in always taking the higher (and probably most difficult) road. My life doesn't revolve about the "things" I had or the objects I had collected or even about looking to the past to try to replace it.- No. My life now, is about looking forward, creating new memories, experiencing new adventures and gladly, dismissing any negativity.
Entertaining at home has always been an important part of my life and still today I love having friends come for a meal at home. This is my way of giving back, my way of reciprocating all their generous invitations, my way of sharing what I have however grand or modest it is. What I have learned is that basics are always best and making an effort with my friends is not about the expensive wine or the shiny silver candelabra. It is about white linen napkins, lots of ivory candles, small vases of flowers. Its about making an effort, its about grace and elegance. True friends, those who are real friends, don't come to my house for the decor, they come to spend time with me, which is after all, the greatest gift of all.
Having moved in and out of 6 houses in the last 8 years for all sorts of different reasons, I have pared down my belongings to the utmost minimum. I have sold or given away anything that had bad memories and kept my favorite things, those that really give me pleasure... just to look at. It has been a great cleansing exercise and I am so glad to have done it. I am finally at the exact place where I want to be. Surrounded by those who love me, enveloped in warmth and care. I live surrounded by items that make me happy and have managed to remove everything else that doesn't! Loving my house, every inch of it, is a true pleasure. Every memory here is fabulous: every meal a feast, every night a celebration and every morning a happy one.
LET ME TELL YOU: Apparently, during a petty divorce, it is very common for one of the parties to use these heirlooms as ransom. I have heard horror stories from friends who only got the dessert part of his family's unreplaceable antique silver and another who only received the salad plates of her china. I know some else who's husband destroyed their music collection.... I know that I am not alone, there are millions of these stories. In my case, I have received.... nothing. My collections, photo albums, china and family silver were taken as ransom and not returned to spite me . It is really not about the dollar value but rather about the ability to hurt and destroy. So I wonder, is the ex-family going through my things with wondrous affection? Those objects don't mean anything to them and so they are just keeping them around....to.... keep the memory of me alive and well?.- Jeez....