My family celebrated Mom’s 95th birthday this week. My brother and sister-in-law flew in from Denver, and two cousins from downstate joined us for a family cookout here at Home Sweet Abbey. We shared many memories, mostly happy ones, as we chatted over brats and birthday cake. Despite Mom’s memory loss, there were moments when her eyes and face lit up at the mention of a long-ago name or event.
Later, after Mom and the cousins were gone, I brought out three boxes of family heirlooms that I’ve been storing since Mom’s last move. They held items deemed too valuable to display in her room in a memory care unit, where possessions sometimes disappear, through no ill intentions. These are treasures of little monetary value that she asked me to keep in a safe place.
As we went through the boxes, we agreed it was a shame that these mementos were packed away. Mom wanted them safe, but not necessarily out of sight. So we decided to choose a few to display in our homes. It was interesting—and good for family harmony—that each of us saw the greatest value in something the other two didn’t want.
My brother chose our grandfather’s figurine of a black minstrel, something I considered racist and had almost thrown out months ago. My sister-in-law asked for a little black velvet jacket that my grandmother had made for Mom as a small child. It’s a nifty piece of sewing but is definitely showing its age.
I said there was only thing I wanted, but I wanted it a lot—Mom’s toy typewriter. My brother looked surprised. Why would you ever want that? he asked.
Because I’m a writer, I said, thinking that was obvious. So here it is, my treasure.
Mom had tucked a note card with a few facts inside the box with it. She received the typewriter as a Christmas present in 1926, when she was 6. It ended up in the attic of the family’s farmhouse when she outgrew her fondness for toys. Then she found it decades later, in 1972, when she and Dad were getting ready to sell the house. The note adds that the typewriter still works, but I haven’t tried it because of its fragile condition. Apparently, it types one letter at a time. You use the dial at the top to select the letter. The keyboard is only decorative.
It is quite tiny. Here it is next to my computer.
I think it looks cute there, but it will probably end up displayed in my living room, where it will be more visible to guests.
And the next time I bring Mom over, I’ll be sure that she notices it. I think she’s going to be very, very happy to see it again.