Janet Christie's Mum's the Word - My family just can’t wait to pass on the heirlooms
My family has a penchant for passing things on “before they go”, and they’re not talking to the shops.
So tangible items, the precious and personal, prosaic and practical, things imbued with meaning or just with “plenty of life in them yet” - keep appearing.
Such as my mother’s wedding ring, which has been secure on my brother’s finger since she died in 1985, and seen him safely through travels from the Highlands to the Falklands and back. But now, during a road trip, he’s giving it to me.
“What? Why?” I ask, uncomfortable. I like seeing him wearing it. It makes me smile that it’s engraved all the way round with love hearts yet he wore it through his years in a macho forces environment.
“Well, you’ve got kids, people to pass it on to,” he says, pragmatic.
“Don’t be so morbid,” I say.
“I’m not. The family continues through you, so when I go…”
“Anyway, I’ve got my own wedding ring,” he says. “Here you go,” and he lobs my mum’s ring back from the front of the car as his wife in the driving seat nods approval.
On closer examination the hearts are almost rubbed away but if you know, they’re still there.
“There are initials too, on the inside,” he says, “but you can’t see them.”
I slip it on and it feels like a hug across the years.
Concurrent with this habit of giving things away early is a jaunty attitude to death. My aunty’s just off the phone telling me I’m getting her Spode.
“No-one else wants it,” she says. “And that clock on the mantelpiece - I’ve put stickers on them. And the miner’s lamp, you like that.”
“Will everyone stop talking about when they go!” I say.
“Why? Best to sort it out now. Otherwise it’ll go all on the tip. Your cousin’s said so,” she tells me.
“She’d never do that,” I protest.
“I would!” shouts my cousin in the background, adding “Knick-knacks, bric-a-brac, ornaments!” like a reincarnation of Les Dawson with his ‘knickers, knackers, knockers’. “And chiming clocks!” she adds, as the old clock gently chimes the quarter hour and someone else shouts: “Dust!”.
I know better than to ask for whom the bell tolls. I don’t need to. It’s got a sticker with my name on the back.