Friday, April 27, 2012

My Inheritance

My parents. The picture is about
30 years old, but it's my favorite.
My father died a year ago today, and my mother in 2005, so I'm officially an orphan. Of course, I miss my parents, but they both lived long, wonderful lives (Mother was 86 and Daddy was 95) full of good friends, a loving family, and many adventures. Like most surviving children, my brother and I received some things from them via our inheritance. The "things" themselves aren't as important as the true gifts behind them. Let me explain:

My father, and his mother before him, loved Texas books and amassed an extensive collection, many of them quite old. I have a bookcase full of Texas books (which is   only about a third of the collection). Several of them are traditional history books, delineating the roots of Texas, or Mexico's part in the state's past. Some of them focus on a specific subject, such as economics or law. The ones that pique my interest have more to do with the settlers' day-to-day life or their altercations with neighboring tribes. Daddy also collected maps, usually of Texas but other areas as well. Some were quite old and show the progression of the state (or country) as it was discovered and settled. But my "real" inheritance was a love of Texas history and the tenacity of the pioneers. I've read how an hour long trip for us translated into days for them. I've traced cattle routes, located Indian tribes, and witnessed the expansion of the state to the west on the maps. The journeys and experiences of early Texas inhabitants filled me with an awe and admiration for their strength and adventurous spirit.

Another gift I received from my parents was a love of travel. We took long family car trips during summer vacations. One year we drove to San Francisco via the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde. Another year we drove to Maryland for Daddy's naval reunion, and visited Washington DC and Williamsburg en route. We were fortunate enough to travel outside the US as well: Mexico, the Bahamas, Italy, Spain, England and Scotland. All of our adventures instilled a wanderlust that lives in me today; I love to travel (and driving is my favorite means of transportation). Although trips to Europe are awesome, I experience the same thrill discovering a small Texas town. And, of course, when I drive, I can take the back roads (my favorite) and enjoy serendipitous stops along the way.

The most precious gift from my inheritance is a love of family and the traditions we have that mark our occasions together. On Christmas Eve, we all sign a white tablecloth that is later embroidered in red thread. This tablecloth has been in existence my entire life and it chronicles births, deaths, and marriages. You can find a "signature" from my toddler days (it was a line), the addition of children, and the deaths of family members. It is a physical manifestation of the history of my extended family. Each Christmas Eve, I delight in "re-reading" it, reminiscing about our times together, tracing the threads of our lives. 

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that valued adventure, learning and relationships. These are some of the true gifts of my inheritance (there are more) and are much more precious to me than any of the "things" I received.

Have you received intangible gifts from family or friends? What were they?

Have you been there?


  1. Reading your family’s closeness and adventures was endearing, captivating. I am so happy you have been given such memorable experiences and precious things that you may share with your children, and then their children, and then their children… so on, and so on, and so on. ((((Hugs))))
    Oh yes... each of my daughters received a crocheted afghan from my [our] aunt, a quilt from my mother and these were all hand made. Treasures for sure! But nothing as elaborate as you have received.
    Sadly, both sides of my family are severely fractured by drugs and alcohol abuse. However…
    My children will receive a precious inheritance, similar to yours, from me: a genealogy that spans centuries in this country. And I have amassed quite a wealth of information, photos, and stories since beginning my search in 2008. So like your father’s collection of Texas history, maps, etc., my children will be gifted with such treasures too. Also, during their upbringing they were bestowed with traditions such as Christmas cookie making, a Thanksgiving filled with fun and family (albeit small), numerous venues of hand crafting, and that old timey task of picture taking. Tons and tons of pictures of everything and anything.
    I am not much of an adventurer outside of my lovely USA, but encouraged my daughters to dream of travels well outside of my comfort zone. So both have become travelers where their mother never was.  I do love the sharing afterwards.
    So not only can treasures be in the form of something tangible, but also in the form of a mental pictorial. However, writing down those memories ensures they remain alive through future centuries.  

  2. Thank you for sharing your wonderful heritage and the gifts your parents and family have given you.  Your description of the tablecloth brought tears to my eyes.  

  3. My grandmother (Nana) had this just ... grace about her. She always spoke with authority, and she held firm to her opinions, and always did everything with loads of class. I think of her a lot (she's passed away) whenever I feel nervous, or less-than, or like I shouldn't speak up. She always spoke up, even if everyone thought her opinion was bat-shit crazy. (She hated my tattoo and the fact that my wedding dress showed it; she told me so & never took it back, but somehow she said it so gracefully that I was like "Oh yeah, Nana ... you're right ...")

  4. Absolutely!  My grandmother instilled in me the love of cooking, as well as the desire to create THE perfect lasagna, altho, Gramma’s was hard to top. She’s been gone since 2001 and I miss her every day of my life. She was the one I could call when I just couldn’t connect with my mom (who I adore, btw). She always had the best advice and the best Sicilian recipes. I still have the recipe card she gave me with her spaghetti sauce recipe penned in … but it is in letter format, and I will NEVER forget how it starts: “Julie, honey…”


    Yes, I loved and adored my elders. :)


Yes! I've been there, Claire!