Yesterday we drove to Enid, Oklahoma to clean out my husband's grandmother's house. A year ago she moved into an assisted living center, and the family has finally agreed that she will never go home again. The Computer Guy and I loaded #6 into the car and made the 90 minute drive to her house to help his aunt and uncle sort through 90 years worth of possessions.
We uncovered family heirlooms no one else knew existed. Cool things such as his great-grandmother's confirmation dress, hand sewn with lace insets and pintucks, it would have taken me an entire year with a sewing machine to get even close to making that dress. It took his great grandmother, who was 14 at the time, a month...BY HAND. There were dishes and photographs, furniture and knick-knacks to be sorted, inventoried and assessed. Then everything was either assigned to a designated family member, set aside for charity or thrown away.
We came away with the only thing we wanted (but they kept trying to get us to take more, bless them). We brought home an old, dusty moldy wooden trunk.
In 1890, my husband's great-great-grandfather and 15 of his 17 children left Germany for the United States with all of their worldly possessions packed tightly into one wooden trunk, as space was at a premium on immigrant ships and every piece of luggage cost money. The family settled in Minnesota and lived there for a few years before loading up that trunk again and moving on to Oklahoma. Once again, all their household possessions fit neatly into that one wooden trunk.
This old trunk is now sitting in my garage waiting for me to clean off the cobwebs and the dust before moving it upstairs to the foot of our bed where I will pack it with all of the heirlooms of our own life. It is a silent testimony to us all of the bravery and fortitude of those who have come before us, and a reminder of how little we actually do need. I would like to think that if we needed to, we could pack the necessities in that one wooden box, pick up our lives and go. That we would all remember that the important things in life are God, family, and faith, the rest of it is just extra baggage.