By nature, I am not much of a saver. If something doesn’t have a use, if I haven’t worn it in five years, etc., give it away or throw it out. And because of that tendency of mine, I have actually gotten rid of a few treasures.
When I was still a kid, my mom had an old treadle sewing machine out in the garage. It had been her mother’s. Mom had an electric sewing machine in the house. The one in the garage was junk in her mind. Oh, I wish I had that old junk sewing machine now. Not because it would have great monetary value, but so I could look at it and remember that my grandmother used to sit at it and make clothes for her daughters a hundred years ago.
But I have managed to hang onto a few possessions that matter. Two of them reside in my lighted curio cabinet, among my china and crystal and collection of Cherished Bears. One is the pocket watch that belonged to my father. Dad was killed in a plane crash when I was 4 months old, and I like having something that was his. The other is the wrist watch that belonged to my maternal grandmother. She was a tiny thing. Just barely 5 feet tall. And she still wore a corset in her 70s (I remember watching her put it on).
My mom had few possessions by the time she passed away at age 96. She’d divested herself again and again, first when she sold the home where I grew up, next when she sold her last home, next when she moved in with me in her 80’s, and again when I downsized from a large, two-story home to a smaller one-level. But I discovered a few gems as I went through her things after her passing, one being letters written in Swedish from my maternal great-grandfather to my grandfather.
But I think what I love most among the things I kept from Mom’s keepsakes are her dad’s property tax receipts from 1909 (Iowa) through 1914 (California) because they revealed something I hadn’t known before. The stories I knew about my maternal grandparents were mostly about their lives in Idaho where they moved around 1920. They rented homes and farmland while raising their daughters. It wasn’t until their nest was empty that they bought a 40 acre farm with a teeny-tiny house on it. Anyway, I thought they’d always been poor.
Well, it turns out that Grandpa owned land in Iowa, then moved to California where he owned a lemon grove. My one surviving aunt told me that it was her illness and hospitalizations as a child that nearly bankrupted the family and forced their move from California to Idaho. More info I hadn’t known before.
Grandpa was 25 years old when he made his last tax payment in Iowa in February 1910 (almost 102 years ago!). The receipt (different from the one shown above) includes a list of taxed personal property. What a treasure for this history-nut! Grandpa owned and was taxed for: 1 colt (2 yrs old); 3 horses (3 yrs & older); 3 heifers (2 yrs old); 4 cows; 1 steer (2 yrs old); 5 swine (over 6 months); and 1 other (musical instruments, watches, jewelry, threshing machines, engines, old grain, etc.). Net value of the personal property listed was $644. Quite substantial for a man of 25 in 1910.
My paternal grandparents and my maternal grandfather were all dead before I was born. My maternal grandmother lived with us until her passing when I was 12. But she left something I prize most of all. An example of her faith. The most persistent memory I have of Grandma is of her seated in her chair near the fireplace with her Bible open on her lap.
Time rushes by. Those old watches no longer keep time. The land my family once possessed belongs to someone else. Only what’s done for Christ will last.