Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heirlooms, Treasures, and Keepsakes.....

something that has been passed down for generations through family members
a concentration of riches, often one that has been considered lost or forgotten until being rediscovered.
an item that reminds a person of a specific event or time.
The above definitions are how we often describe the things that have been handed down to us in our families. I am a bit more blessed than others in this area as I have become the official family member that everyone gives their stuff to. Exactly how this happened I do not know. Maybe it is because I appreciate things from the past or have expressed interest in the stories surrounding the object. A friend of mine loves to come to my house. She likes to point things out and ask me the story. She often sighs and says she wishes she had family things and stories to tell. I always tell her that she can be the one to start the traditions in her family, after all, they have to originate somewhere.

As I thought over all the things I have, I could really only come up with one true by the
definition heirloom ~ a reverse glass painting that has been in the family for well over one hundred years. It belonged to my great uncle's family and came from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. It was painted by an itinerant artist traveling through the area. Often such artists would trade their paintings for food and lodging as they traveled. This is the story I was told of how it came to be in the possession of our family.My painting and its frame were damaged in a house fire. It was a prized possession and was snatched out quickly but not before some of the paint heated up and melted off and bits of the frame edging were blackened and scorched. It was stored for years in disrepair until my great aunt dug it out of storage and put a piece of tin foil on the back, carefully cleaned the soot from the front of the glass, and refinished the wooden frame. She hung it in her den. I grew up asking to hear how the painting was saved. To entertain me, my great aunt often made up stories of the people who lived in the house in the painting and what kinds of things they did. After both she and my great uncle passed away, my mothers cousin gave her the painting to give to me. It has hung in my home ever since. I got interested in this style of painting and now have a small collection of them.Reverse glass painting is an art form that consists of applying paint to a piece of glass and then viewing the image by turning the glass over. You literally have to paint backwards, from the front of the scene details to the back, layering highlights and shading to create depth. Signed pieces are as scarce as the paintings themselves. Often the painting did not survive as they were easily broken. The paints used often dried, flaked, cracked, and peeled, leaving the painting damaged.

This was a popular method for painting clock faces and cases in the 1800's. This style of painting is centuries old. The most popular paintings of the day were silhouettes of famous people or buildings, often painted on concave glass in oval gilt frames. Less popular paintings were of houses, churches, and bridges, often depicted with trees and water, painted on flat glass and framed in ornate wooden frames. Many times chips of mother of pearl were used as window panes and occasionally bits of German glitter were also used.

As far as treasures go, I'd have to pick a piece of needle work that was done by my father-in-law. Yes, you read that right, he stitched this piece. It was done with one of those mass produced kits, is of no monetary value, but is priceless to me. When he became seriously ill after his second bout of cancer he had some very long hospital stays. He was always very creative, painting, ceramics, woodworking, even occasionally doing needlework.Making his way to the hobby store before yet another long hospital visit he picked out a needlework kit to take with him to pass the time. No one knew about the kit. He kept it secreted away and worked on it when at night when we had gone home to rest. He made it as a special gift for my mother-in-law. He gave it to her to frame. She never told anyone about it and tucked it away for framing later and either forgot about it or could not bear to take it out after his passing.When she passed away my husband and I were cleaning out her hobby room and I found it in the bottom of a sewing drawer under some fabric. It was lovingly wrapped with a note attached. It told the story of who stitched it and how it was given. In that moment, I felt I had found the greatest of treasures, a gift made by my father-in-laws hands for the wife he loved so much for the very last anniversary they would spend together. It is not stitched well as he was so very ill at the time but every single stitch was made with love. It has their names and wedding date in the wreaths. This is a piece I truly treasure.

In the area of keepsakes, I have been a big bin of handwritten journals. They have been written over the last 13 years. They were began shortly after I became a Christian. They are my children's spiritual heritage. I have written almost daily with a few exceptions. These volumes include events, prayers, praises, thoughts, feelings, stories, poetry, devotionals, inspiring quotes or lyrics, snippets of sermons, life lessons, anything that I am inspired to write on any given day.My desire to write these began when my husband and I started a new chapter in our lives. We are the tradition bearers of faith in our family. The heritage of faith was not passed on to us, we had to originate the tradition and pass it down. Our children are the second generation of believers in our family. I had relatives who were believers, my grandmother and aunts and uncles, but they lived far away and spending one week out of 52 did not make a huge impact in the area of faith in my life. There were a few stops and starts in church attendance when I was growing up but that is about it. I was inspired to start these journals after reading the following Scripture, "This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord." Psalm 102:18 This is the inscription I hand painted on my drop leaf writing desk. I had a deep and burning desire to leave a written legacy, a road map, if you will, on the journey of faith. I kept thinking, "Why has no one told me this or that?", "Why was this truth not shared with me?", or "It would have much easier if I had only known such and such." I had to find a lot of the answers for myself and so will my children and their children, but in recording my journey, I hope to show them that through it all, heartache, sorrow, joy, and blessing, God is faithful. My hope is that when these writings are passed down through the generations, my descendants will read of specific events, times, places, and people that will reflect a legacy of faith, the beginnings of their spiritual heritage, one woman's footprints, leading them to the cross.

Miss Sandy


Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Now that is the treasure that means the most to be passed on to a new generation! I love that you are doing that. I'm afraid that my journals have been entirely too whiny and mopey for anyone in my family to appreciate them...perhaps I can serve as a bad example. ;>

That painting is a wonderful treasure with so much provenance. It's an amazing thing and what an interesting process to create it in the first place.

Hope that your Hannah day went well. I got purposely bopped by a little grand on my day. Hmmmm, I hope that I handled it well...a firm, meaningful "Thou shalt not hit thy Nonni."

Have a great day!

HisBeloved said...

I have a beautiful Union case just like the one in the first picture. Is the picture of a family member?

Barbara H. said...

What a marvelous keepsake! I had started writing some of our journey of faith for much the same reasons.

I love your desk, too!

I am almost in tears over that stitched piece. It is beautiful in itself, but the story behind it is so touching.

I don't know if I have ever heard of reverse painting -- I am glad to have learned something new!

maggysue said...

Thank you for the beauty in which you write. I'm inspired by you.

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