December Reflections 16: treasures

Collection of objects on a wooden table: two letter openers shaped like lizards; a pair of opera glasses; tin containing a medal with the image of the Royal Albert Hall; metal chalet, horse, tree and dog

So many. The more we go through Pa’s stuff, the more we turn up. Some of them are old friends – I have adored those lizards since I was tiny. Some were completely new to us – I’d never seen the German village before. Some are of genuine historical interest – Sir Julius Benedict’s watch chain, for example. Some are genuinely useful – I have been using the opera glasses for their intended purpose. Some would fetch a few bob at auction, though probably less than you’d think, and indeed some have already departed in that direction. Some came from auctions in the first place. Some have been in the family for years.

And there are plenty more where those came from. The ones I’m enjoying most are the ones that tell me more about family I never knew. For example, we found a little piece of cardboard with a clock face drawn on in ink: this, it said on the reverse, was made by my great-great-grandfather for my grandfather to put on his sandcastle on Bournemouth beach in the early years of the 20th century (I forget which specific year). This more or less doubled what I knew about that great-grandfather, as a human being.

It’s a privilege. Goodness knows my husband’s grandmother, for example, was not in a position to collect little bits of cardboard of sentimental value and take them with her to Siberia. Sometimes it’s poignant. Sometimes it’s a duty and a burden. Sometimes it’s a chore. Sometimes it’s so interesting that you lose the rest of the afternoon. And we’ll be doing it for a while yet, and I’m sure there are plenty more treasures to be found.

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