Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hidden Treasures In Family Heirlooms

"Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures,
but in the use made of them." - Napoleon Bonaparte

     My grandmother on my father's side passed away about 4 years ago. She was a widow of over 30 years, and had lived quietly as a Dodgers fan in the middle of the desert for all of that time. Her simple lifestyle was matched by her simple list of belongings. When I arrived at her home, the night before her funeral, most of the large and meaningful belongings were gone or accounted for by her children. The grandchildren were allowed to then mention anything they might want to remember our sweet matriarch by. I grabbed a wooden bar stool that I remember eating pancakes and tacos on while grandma cooked and cleaned while asking about our lives. Then, a favorite aunt pulled me aside and asked me to follow her.

   We headed to the closet in the hallway, to an open door and a mostly cleared out space. I'd never seen much of the closet of the previous 25 years, as it was chock full of stuff and you couldn't get past the jackets and such. Now it was empty, but for a few things on the shelves. My aunt said, "Since you and grandma shared a love for art and painting, the siblings agreed that you should have her art set." She handed me a wooden art kit that looked like it'd had seen a few years. I thanked her through tears and put it in my car.

   Upon returning home later the next day, I sat down at the dinner table with the art case, and opened it with no idea of what to find. I knew she was an amateur painter with some beautiful pieces hanging in her home that went to my father and his siblings. I lifted the lid and gazed down at the many tools of a fellow artist. Paint tubes that had been squeezed by my grandmothers hands. Brushes that had bits of paint still on them. I was feeling very connected to my grandmother, but felt a small hint of remorse that all the paintings she had done were spoken for. As I stared at the scene before me I noticed that the upper part of the case was actually a palate for painting.

   I reached up and slowly lifted it, sliding it out of the groves it was resting it. Small canvases peered out from underneath, and it was clear this was where she stored something to be kept from being crushed. I wasn't sure if they were blank or not until I pulled them out. There were many sheets of unused palate paper for painting, a few unused miniature canvases, and then the back of a slightly larger flat canvas. The back had a date from the 50's, and my heart began to race. I turned it over and beheld a wonderful landscape painting. I tried to hold my composure as I realized that I'd found a painting my grandmother had done.
   I called my aunt within days to declare what I'd found, so that I had a clear conscience. She said that she felt that it was meant to be mine, and I was to keep it. There are hidden treasures in family heirlooms that we must not dismiss. I have nothing of my grandfather's, as no one thought to keep anything of his. I will hold dear the things my grandmother used, that bind us as family and artists. One day, I will pass it on to another generation, and keep the tradition going. What treasures might exist in your families?


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