COLUMN: Ed Olfert — July 11, 2012

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By Ed Olfert

A month ago, we moved Holly’s mother into a new home. Given the vagaries of aging and health, significant downsizing was involved. As a result, much stuff needed to find a new home.

I doubt that I will be as graceful when it’s my time to reevaluate what’s important. I’m not suggesting that this was an easy time for mom, that serious grieving was not part of the process. But it was done with integrity and honesty, and on that day when the move actually happened, she was able to function in useful ways. Mom certainly claims now that transition day was an emotional blur.

Holly, as the oldest daughter, the oldest child in this part of the world, ended up with two of the most significant pieces of furniture. A dining room set, complete with wooden table and claw foot pedestal adorns our home, as does a curved glass china cabinet that mostly serves to strike fear into Holly’s heart. We have active grandchildren. It is currently pushed back into a corner, hopefully away from exuberant traffic. This is a piece that has historically caused me to question my role in this family. Have they ever really cared for me, or am I seen as merely a big strong farm boy who will carry the china cabinet? I have been part of moving it into many different homes, and it is always somewhat tense. Perhaps next time I will be dead.

After these items made their way into our home, it seemed good to quiz my mother-in-law as to their history, and their significance. I learned that the dining room set had originally been purchased by her paternal grandfather. That means that when our little ones put their feet under the table for a meal, they will be the sixth generation of Doyles to do so. The china cabinet was purchased by mom’s mother, at a selling out auction of a farm family. The seller was mom’s godmother. It has been in the family for one generation less than the dining room set, and represents the Lotzein branch of the family tree. Both pieces are, of course, in pristine condition.

Here I’ll admit that I’m really not the right guy to appropriately appreciate fine furniture, pristine or otherwise. Tables are mostly significant for holding food at a convenient height for shoveling down my gullet. China cabinets are noteworthy for displaying stuff that could otherwise disappear into a cupboard.

What are far more significant to me are the connections. As we talked, mom told histories of the different people who had lived with these pieces. When I consider the furniture and knick knacks that were sorted out on moving day, some dispersed and some taken along to the new place, I realize that these pieces remind family members of who they are, of where they come from, and of the strength in that history. They form a vital link from the past, through the present, and into the future. The little ones, as they hear and claim those histories, know where they belong, and that it is good.

The branches of the family tree that represent my background work at this a little differently. When my mom died, for example, we descended on her apartment, each of us claimed what was somewhat useful to us, and the rest was hauled to a slough on my brother’s farm and burned. We celebrated that my mom didn’t own anything of monetary value, stuff just wasn’t important to her. But we grew up in a rich story telling culture, and as we often say, the rare story might actually have been true! It is through this that we are reminded of who, and whose, we are.

That’s similar to being reminded of our family of God connection in a bigger, yet equally important way, of who, and whose, we are. And that it is very good.

Geographic location: China

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