Using Treasured Family Heirlooms

My daughter's choice of mixing bowls advanced the count to five generations that had made Christmas cookies in this very same bowl.

My Great-grandmothers Bowl

My Great-grandmothers Bowl

I have a very old piece of pottery that shows the years it has witnessed and I usually keep the bowl tucked away in a safe place. It belonged to my great-grandmother, Big Mummy we called her.

When I saw my teenaged daughter mixing Christmas cookies in the old bowl, I was overcome with a warmth often found during the holidays. My daughter’s choice of a mixing bowl had advanced the count to five generations that had now stirred Christmas cookie batter in this very same bowl.

Even with its chips, dings and scuff marks, the bowl is a cherished family heirloom, an antique rarely used. Suddenly, I wondered, “Why?” Why is this gorgeous piece tucked away, protected from use?

Bowl Used by Five Generations

Bowl Used by Five Generations

If Big Mummy is looking down on us I believe she would want to see the bowl in use. The heavy bowl has served our family at weddings and funerals. It has witnessed the miracle of birth, the tragedy of World Wars and the loss of many loved ones. It has literally served our family for generations.

I moved quickly to the China hutch and pulled out my best Christmas glasses and placed them in the ordinary kitchen cupboard to encourage their use. The kids expect to see the best family china on the table for Christmas dinner, but they have never seen me set out the handpainted champagne glasses my mother purchased in Thailand in 1972; those will also be on my Christmas table this year.

I looked around the house and pulled the best towels from the linen closet for use in the kids bathroom. My embroidered pillow cases were quickly slipped onto their pillows and crisp linen napkins were set on the table in the breakfast nook.

Bowl is a Family Heirloom

Bowl is a Family Heirloom

Taking pleasure in the freedom I now felt to use Big Mummy’s bowl at will, I pulled it from atop the dish drainer and we made brownies, cookies and cakes to share with our friends. I even mixed up my husband’s favorite, a New York style cheesecake.

With Christmas and the New Year I find myself stealing time to reflect and think about the future. As simple as it sounds I have come to realize that our nicest dishes, sheets and towels will no longer be saved for company. In my house, guests are treated like family, so too now, my family will be treated like guests.

As a footnote, my 90 year old grandmother treated us to a movie night package for Christmas and you can bet we will be serving up the microwave-popcorn in Big Mummy’s turn-of-the-century bowl! How is that for closing the generation gap?

Merry Christmas!!!

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