Thursday, January 17, 2013


Some months ago my mother-in-law followed my parents into a retirement centre in Pennsylvania. One consequence of their moves was the sudden acquisition of mementoes from their cottages. Without the space to keep them, their children took what they wanted. In general with remarkably little disagreement over who would get what.

We got a copper tray from my folks, a reminder of 20 years of service in Zambia and Zimbabwe; and (for my Dad) of another nine years growing up in Zimbabwe. A beautiful copper tray, but the memories of people and service carried on the tray outweighs the copper considerably.

A lamp with a driftwood base and a lovely (but fragile) top made its way to our house as well. Alison carried it on her lap from Greenville to South Bend, packed into a car carrying more than it was designed to. We packed it carefully (so as not to damage it) when I drove it north across the border to our home. Memories for Lois of her love for the Southwest, and memories of her home for so many years in New Madison.

Then the water pitcher. A beautiful antique water pitcher that had belonged to M. G. Engle. There's history for you! The pitcher reminds me of a curious coincidence (providing I have my facts right). Lois' great-grandfather, M. G. Engle, was a prominent bishop and leader among the Kansas Brethren. After his first wife died, he married again -- to an evangelist among the Brethren whose knowledge of the Word and ability to expound from the pulpit was equal to his own. My grandfather performed the wedding ceremony in which they were united.

I love these memories. Carrying them up from the States was hard work. Our little Corolla was filled to window height inside, with a packed trunk, when I arrived at the border. The Customs official looked inside the car. "Are you bringing anything back with you that you did not take down?" he asked, somewhat incredulously. I motioned at the pile of stuff. "My parents and my wife's mother moved into a retirement centre. This is the stuff they told us to take home with us." Several moments of silence while he digested the news. "Any alcohol or tobacco?" "No." "Welcome home." He was not about to tamper with that pile of stuff, calculating correctly that there was no money there, just lots of dusty memories.

And I love them. Reminders of where I come from, my ancestors living on in my blood and thoughts and house, as long as I can remember them. And Lois and me living on in our sons and whoever comes after, as long as they remember. Memories.

1 comment:

KGMom said...

You could have rented a trailer and pulled more mementoes home.

Just kidding.