Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Legacy My Grandmother Left Behind.

Close to ten years ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. My mom's family lived in Alabama and since we live in Louisiana near my father's family, we would drive to see them once every other year or so. I was never extremely close to that grandma, mainly because the distance and how often I was able to see her. My grandmother was very OCD, a clean-freak, and strict. My grandfather was the opposite. He is the sweetest, most laid-back man and I was always kind of confused by their relationship. They had obviously been married for many years and brought four children into the world so they have to love each other, right? I guess it was just odd to watch two people who seemed to be very different live together as one for so long. My grandma's passing was very sudden and unexpected and since then, we haven't gone back to Alabama but a few times to see my grandpa. I think it's hard on my Mom having to see their home the way it was when my Grandma was still around. The last time I was there was probably five years after she had died. My grandpa hadn't changed anything. The candy in the dishes was still there...five years later. Stale food was in the cupboards and her clothes still hung in the closet. The smell of her still lingered and there was still papers and bills with her name on them on the counter. Five years. It was heartbreaking to see my Grandpa unable to let go. Now that it's been another five years, the house has been emptied and sold. My grandpa is living with one of his other sons(my uncle) and his children are going through the process of dividing up their belongings. My mom spent three months living in Alabama before the house sold with him to help get everything organized. When I was a kid, my mother had this doll. She was beautiful and porcelain-faced. I wanted her badly. I asked for her and she said "when you're sixteen". When I was sixteen, I asked again. "When you're eighteen", she said. I'm now twenty-three years old and that doll is still with my mother. She says when I'm older and have a more "established" home, I can have her(we'll see about that). Well apparently she told my grandpa this story at some point because when they were going through stuff, he pulled out some of my grandma's dolls he had saved for me.

He said while the other kids were taking things, he put these aside especially for me since he remembered that I liked dolls. The first one is a Sonja Henie doll that my grandmother got when she was around five years old. Like my grandma, she never played with her. She kept her in a display case away from dust and damage. She is gorgeous and in perfect condition. My mom said even she never saw her. It's like my grandma hid her. My grandma also included a newspaper with an article about the worth of the doll. That's the thing about my grandma that I didn't know. She documented everything. I mean, EVERYTHING. I found out that she had kept newspapers from major historical events and my stupid uncle didn't think anything of it and burned them. Newspapers of when JFK was killed. Newspapers featuring Marilyn Monroe's death and things of that sort. I was livid, but I loved knowing that my grandma was smart enough to save those things. Then I found things she documented that was just plain OCD. Cute...but OCD. She had a notebook where she kept record of all of her VHS tapes. Hundreds and hundreds of tapes in alphabetical order, with reviews, and cross-referenced with actors and other movies they were in. It was crazy. She had highlighted sections, stars drawn, and things broken into categories. I remember as a kid if you didn't put a tape up in the right spot, she would get on to you. I remember if you touched something breakable, she would get on to you. I thought maybe she never really "liked" kids and maybe she never was one herself. I loved being able to go through her things with my Mom though, because I feel like I got to know the "real her". I got teary-eyed finding out just how organized she was and found myself thanking her in my head. If she wouldn't have recorded what I'm about to show you, then I would have missed out on all of the true meanings and stories of these items.
This was her jewelry box full of "costume jewelry". My aunts and uncles became jerks when it came time to divide up her belongings. My mom said they were grabbing things they knew was expensive or worth something. Fighting over their wedding china or engagement/wedding rings. It was disgusting hearing about how my Mom's siblings were acting and I can tell she was hurt by it too. The funny thing is, this was all of the stuff left for my Mom to get and I think we got the best part. 
What we got was priceless.

 This is a brooch, as you can see, that was given to my grandma from her Dad in the 50's. I imagine her pinning this to her prom dress. I imagine her keeping this as a token of how much her Dad loved her. 

 This one truly broke my heart--but in the best way. I cry every time I look at this. It says, "Dwight(my grandpa) bought this birth stone ring for my 17th B'day. Shifin? Jewelry. Payment book in my album". I asked my mom about this pretty ring and the story about it. I had no idea my grandma knew my grandpa when she was just seventeen! My mom told me that my grandparents were in love as teens and my grandma's parents didn't want them to be together. They sent her up North, to another school I think, to get her away from my grandpa. She said my grandpa drove all the way across the country for her and told them he would marry her. My grandma has the receipt showing how he had to make payments on this ring. I can feel their love. Now I know how much they loved each other and I feel so wrong for ever thinking otherwise. They were each other's first loves. My grandpa wanted no one else. 
I've realized now how timeless love really is and now I understand why it was so hard for him to let her go. I plan on writing my grandpa a letter and telling him how much it meant to me to find these things. It's hard to explain in words just how special this is to me.

This says, "1954-Sterling silver friendship ring from Rose Kolnor". Once again, I loved this. I love seeing my grandmother's handwriting on everything. I love noticing how similar it is to my Mother's. I love how well she preserved everything and I love that she dated everything. My mom told me that she had heard her talk about Rose before and how she was her childhood best friend. I wonder what her family is like? I think my Mom said she's passed away too. I wonder if her family has precious tokens to look at like this. I wonder if they knew how great of a friend she really was. 

This was a coin ring that was in the jewelry box. Sadly, my Mom didn't know any information about it and there wasn't anything with it. I'll have to leave it up to my imagination.

These are two wooden figurines that on the bottom say, "Jan. 19, 1960-From: John Whaley, Sent from Germany." My mom said he was my Grandpa's friend who was in the military and sent those back when he was stationed. Once again, I wonder what happened to him and his family. 
This was a handmade wooden pin that says "My Uncle Armond made me 1949". She was a kid at the time and this simple wooden pin meant enough for her to keep. She didn't let it get thrown around her jewelry box and broken, like I have with so many things. She was careful and safe. She knew she would value this later in life.

This is another one of those "break my heart in a good way" items. "1955 From Dwight". My grandpa gave my grandma these two porcelain figurines sitting on a bench. On the back of the bench, is "I LOVE YOU" handwritten in marker. HANDWRITTEN. 

This was a cookie jar that my Mom said was inside of their home her whole  life. On the bottom it says, "Bought for us before we got married-1955". I could tell how happy my Mom was that she got this. Every time I would touch it, she would worry I was going to drop it and break it. I love that my grandma found any way to put a note on it. I love that the tape is still stuck on there.

When I stepped into my old room and found it being used as "storage", I had no idea what true value it was storing. I had no idea that I would open those Dole banana boxes and find such special things wrapped in newspaper. I wasn't expecting to see jade rings my grandpa used to sell at his flea market booth. Seeing those brought me back to when he would take us with him. He sold knives and novelty joke items. Popper fireworks, fake dog poop, can-o-worm gags, etc. Everything I found that day brought me back to a different time and place. 
Another important and huge detail about my grandma was how much she loved owls. At one point, we counted over 250 owls in her house. I'm surprised it didn't drive my grandpa crazy(or maybe it did?). Maybe he didn't mind one bit because it was what she loved and wanted. I find myself getting annoyed at the "owl trend" that is everywhere right now. Owls are in style and everyone is collecting them. When it first started, I wanted nothing to do with it. It reminded me of my grandma and just made me have a weird feeling. People started giving my Mom owl things as gifts, I think, as a way to remind her of my grandma and make her feel "close" to her. I've now gotten used to the owl trend and don't really mind it, because it reminds me of my grandma. And now the feeling isn't "weird". It's happy. It's a great feeling and I'm glad that I got to take home some owls to add to my own house. My mom kept most of the things, especially the jewelry and breakable items because she's worried my animals might break them. I don't mind though, because I think right now it's important for her to have this stuff. I'm grateful for what I got and all of it isn't even shown in this post. On another day, I'll share the other things I got this day. 

The flower and birds were once hanging in her bathroom and I remember seeing them as a kid every time I would go in there. I love that now I see them every time I go into my bedroom. 

Until then, I wanted to share with you just some of the things I hung in my house that now remind me of that wonderful day where I really got to know my grandma. That day where I bonded with my Mom in a way I never have. The day when I found out how timeless and real love truly is. 

[click on image to make larger]


  1. beautiful Arielle, you are so lucky to have this treasure from your grandma! and I loved every single detail of this post, it's one of my favorites!

  2. Oh my Arielle, what a lovely lovely post. I really enjoyed reading it! Too bad about your uncles and aunts just grabbing everything. Why is it that sort of stuff brings out the worst in people? (I'm saying this with some experience, heh.)

    Anyway your grandpa seems soooo sweet and I loved looking at all the things. You're right, it's so great that she documented everything. Love the owl clock, so cute!

  3. wow what a beautiful story your grandma and grandpa have.

  4. This is so wonderful. You mention that your grandma was OCD, but I think it's great that you know exactly where her things came from. I always wonder about the story behind my vintage stuff, it would be fantastic to actually know who it was given to and when. I think it's awesome that you're able to learn so much more about your grandma this way.

  5. That breaks my heart about your Grandpa having such a hard time letting go. It would be so hard to lose a husband/wife. Those dolls are in such great condition! I love that your Grandpa saved them for you. Oh gosh, I would kill to have those newspapers. I can't believe she saved all of those! I adore that jewelry box. Costume jewelry is my fave. I got some pieces that used to belong to my great grandma and they are amazing. I should take more pictures of them soon. I adore that birth stone ring! It is so beautiful. What a sweet gift for your grandpa to give her and their love story is great. Thanks for sharing this, Arielle. So many awesome treasures!

  6. That is such a fantastic story, to hear about your grandparents. Heartbreaking, too, though. Wonderful and heartbreaking. There really was love there, and that was it. You never had to see it yourself, but had to know and accept it. And now, it just makes you ache with understanding. Does that make any sense? (I'm running low on sleep right now and am certainly overdue for a nap.) Anyway, I know how it goes with the fighting over objects. Both of my paternal grandparents are dead, and my dad, uncle, and aunts fought over many things. It was bitter, very bitter. I just don't understand. Like you, there are far more things to treasure than the things that are worth money. You have the sentimental things, and I can't imagine not having those. There are some things of my MATERNAL grandmother's that I have that I absolutely love. I have earrings and a bracelet that her father gave her for her 16th birthday. I have her first engagement ring, and her class ring from 1953. And, like your grandma, she labels everything. I even have a necklace that was given to her on the day she was born (to wear when she was older, of course). I love all those things, because they are irreplaceable and perfect.

  7. Arielle, your grandma is so great!! She has a lot of things and she puts dates and other important notes in them. How cool is that?! Aaaaaaaaaaah! I am sure she's very happy that you're taking care of her precious treasures <3

  8. Grr, this keeps happening to me, I know I read a post and think "I replied to that" and then I come across it again and realize I didn't. I think it is really awesome that your Grandmother documented things to this extent, I love reading the little description of the items and her life seems like it was full of beautiful things from people she loved. That really sucks about the old newspapers, I love reading through old newspapers! I really hate to see people be so greedy with peoples belongings when they die, why does everything have to be about money with some people? This was a really touching post Arielle, thanks for sharing so many of your Grandma's things.


  9. Arielle, this story is so sweet! I'm literally about to cry. I can only imagine what you were feeling when you went through these items. I'm so glad you documented (taking after your grandma??) these and shared them with us. Truly special!


  10. Oh wow, what an amazing story. Despite their different personalities they loved each other. They do say opposites attract. And your lovely Grandpa really has you in his thoughts to save up those dolls for you. I can imagine the decades of memories they had in that house, it's no surprise he kept thing the way they were for so long. We want to hold on to something that reminds us of that person.



  11. This post made me teary eyed Arielle! It was so sweet. I love that you grandma documented everything, even if it was a bit ocd. It is so sweet that you are able to look back at the items that meant something to her and understand why. The couple smooching on the bench is such a sweet gift your grandpa bought her. I have jumped on board with the owl craze - mainly because it makes me think of my mom and chasing them late at night at my childhood house - but I could see why initially it was irritating to see it catch on. The items you received are wonderful. The dolls and that owl clock are so awesome :] It was very thoughtful of your grandpa to pull the dolls aside for you.


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