Sunday, March 7, 2010


What will you leave behind when you die?

That's easy -- you'll leave it all behind. But, let's talk about heirlooms. When you are gone, what are the things that your children and grandchildren will prize, and what will they sell at the estate auction?

I once heard a man say he didn't intend to leave anything to his children, because he didn't want them to be glad he was gone. 

Will the remnants of your life cause conflict among your loved ones, or will they bring them together? Do you want your life to be valued or treasured?

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, except that I've been thinking about heirlooms in my own life lately. I don't have priceless antiques, or trust funds, or real estate -- I have an old table, a broken electric guitar, and macaroni. 

My oldest daughter, Jordan, has been preparing dinner for the family for the last week. Thursday night she made a family classic -- Hamburger and Macaroni and Tomato Sauce. I capitalized that because it's not only the list of all the ingredients in the dish, but it's what we have called it for -- literally - generations. I'm sure many people have concocted this meal, and probably have a flashier name for it, but we call it Hamburger and Macaroni and Tomato Sauce. This is not revolutionary cooking, it's cooking at it's most basic. 

In our family this dish goes back to, at least, my great-grandmother. I suspect it has it's genesis in the Great Depression. A poor man's lasagna. My own grandmother made it for us countless times, as has my mother. I've made it for my own children. My cousins and aunts and uncles all know the dish. It's not a secret family recipe that we are required to memorize and never write down, and I'm not saying it's even all that appetizing to look at. No one varies from the recipe -- it's plain, kind of bland, but something in our family DNA causes us to love it -- my children every bit as much as I do. It tastes like a warm home, where love and acceptance are the garnishments. 

It's funny the things that cause you to pause. As I sat at the dinner table Thursday night, and watched my eldest step up and take her place in the parade of generations, I was so moved that I had to look away, before Jordan thought I was crying about her cooking (twelve year old girls are fragile). 

Antiques eventually crumble to dust, and material possessions are at the root of most strife and conflict, but this heirloom is one of the ties that binds our family together. 

I'll tell you about the table and the guitar later...  :)


Cecily R said...

Once again Chris, you have struck a chord in me. What a great message about families and togetherness and the little things that bring us together. A perfect Sunday afternoon read.

{krista} said...

Hey, whatever brings a family together... and trust me, I'd rather have a few of grandma's old recipes than the stuff she did leave us!

Emily said...

I'm impressed you can cook. My husband is doing good toasting frozen waffles.
We have a version of that recipe in our family too. You know, I think those family recipes are so tasty because of the memories associated with them, not their ingredients.

Michelle said...

Sounds like goulash to me! I have a lot of recipes that have been passed down from my Grandma. Just smelling those recipes being cooked bring her memory back. :)

Emmy said...

That was beautiful. You are so right, it is these sort of traditions.. the things that you do, not the things that you have that really matter.

And yeah, 12-year-old girls can be emotionally dangerous :)

carol daniels said...

What a wonderful treasure. That kind of heirloom is what it's all about. Now that I am getting older, I think about all "my stuff" a lot and what will happen to it when I'm gone.

My children are telling me that the trips we take them on, the traveling suitcase adventures we go on, the family outings, parties, and Harvest Fest are there treasures.

Thanks for reminding me that heirlooms are not just about "stuff". I loved your post!

MomOf4 said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful. Now I want to try your recipe. :)