Thursday, August 6, 2009

Good News, Bad News

I was cleaning my house today.

No, that's not all, but it's fairly momentous in and of itself, since I simply don't "do" household chores.

Anyway, I was cleaning my house the other day, and I uncovered a box we inherited when Sven's oldest brother, Olaf, passed away. Olaf, who was the oldest of the boys, was 7 years older than Sven. He was only 39 when he died; he passed away the day we brought Princess home from the hospital. Understandably (I hope), when Olaf's partner Jim gave us boxes of things Olaf wanted us to have, we simply weren't able to get through it all. We tried, but the demands of a newborn won out over everything else.

Then, two years later, another newborn came along.

So now, almost four years after Olaf's death, I uncovered this box. Inside the box was Sven's father's watch (Sven's father died when Sven was 17), some other costume jewelry pieces, and some mysterious bagged objects.

The bagged objects contained some real treasure.

As many of my readers know, I'm LDS. We LDS spend a lot of time on family history, or "genealogy," to use the technical, outdated term. My mother's family comes from a long, long line of LDS folks, so much of my family history, at least on her side, is done.

Grandma and Grandpa Debmom.

The Debmom Family Reunion, 1998

Sven's side, on the other hand, is a huge mystery.

As I said, Sven's dad died when Sven was 17. His parents had been divorced for over a decade at that time. His mother, Helga, was an only child; Helga's mother died when Helga was 18. Helga's father, Rufus, lived to be 97, but was a fairly incoherent man by the time Sven knew him. (He knew Sven as "the other one.") Sven's relationship with his paternal family was somewhat distant after the divorce, so he didn't get to know them very well.

In short, there was a lot of missing information. So, imagine my joy when we opened the box to see this:

Sven's dad's Bible

And this:

Cassette tapes of Sven's Uncle Snookie telling the family history and lineage

And these:
TONS of pictures and newspaper clippings, mostly preserved in the Bible.

That's the good news. The bad news was this:

Yes, when I opened the family Bible, I was greeted by a wad of anonymous human hair.

Many of the pictures had no captions or notes, so I'm writing letters to Sven's surviving aunt and great-aunt to see if they are interested in helping me find this information. I sincerely doubt they can help me with the hair.

But what a joy it was to see my children's faces echo some of the photographs! Having grown up myself with a strong sense of my own family history, I am so excited to get to compile some of this for Sven and my children.

We're a good looking family, if I say so myself. I know you can't see much detail, but trust me.

However, all of this got me thinking about the nature of family "heirlooms." There are some heirlooms that I love, I mean LOVE to have. My grandmother's pearls come to mind. In fact, I have a jewelry box so full of current and future "heirlooms" that I just ordered another jewelry box, so I can use this one just for costume stuff.

I have a problem. Don't judge me.

However, when I was going through the box, I laughingly pointed out to Sven that, ha ha, Olaf had saved two gas bills Rufus had received in 1956 for the house we no longer own in Beaumont, Texas. Ha!

"Heh," Sven said. "You know Olaf, he saved everything."

"Ha," I agreed. "Throw those away, okay?"

He didn't throw them away.

So, of course, when I broached the subject of throwing away the mystery hair, Sven poo-poo'd all over it. (Figuratively.)

I get that the Bible, which we're sure was Sven's father's, is an heirloom. It's cracked and old, but it's something of his dad's, so I have no problem keeping it.

But the mystery hair? Is that really an "heirloom?"

One of my friends made the point that she saves things because she knows who the things belonged to, but her kids don't so they can feel free to throw them away. (She pointed out that the things she saved were quite ugly.) Sven and I are keeping a wad of hair, hair belonging to various deceased persons, because that hair PROBABLY came from Sven's relatives.

So, I have contained the entire Bible in two gallon-size Ziploc bags, thusly:

and shall label the entire package "Papaw's Bible And Dubious Hair."

I'm sure my progeny will shiver with delight.


Glenene said...

Houston's Funeral Museum (a small but fascinating place) has art work and jewelry made with hair. Does that make the hair a "better" heirloom?

Mark said...

What? No one has gone to the obvious "Hairloom" joke?

Deb said...

Glenene: yes, if something was made out of it, it would be a better heirloom. Even if it was braided, separated, or anything to indicate that it had been cared for...

Mark: har.

Kristina P. said...

How cool to discover all these treasures! Maybe you can get into doll making with the hair.

Mummy McTavish said...

"Dubious Hair" - I wouldnt want to run into that on a moonless night...

I'm sure your kids will one day find it and wonder what their mother was on when she decided to keep the dubious hair.

Mr. and Mrs. Nurse Boy said...

That hair is really creepy. WHY? And, what a suprise.

Mrs. Nurse Boy

Boy Mom said...

Hair today gone tomorrow, that's the way of family Hairlooms.

My deceased Dad [so technically my Mom], has a really cool old silver butter dish containing a note from his deceased Mom explaining how he ran home when he was a little tyke and made her bring a quarter to buy something from a neighbors garage sale that he said was as beautiful as she was. Ahh, the sweetness is palpable until you look in the bottom half of the dish where Dear Old Dad kept all the lost baby teeth from his eleven kids. Gag, unless you're into DNA searching your family tree.

Sneaky Momma said...

What an amazing find!!! Those items are priceless!
I've heard of people saving a lock of hair, but a whole headful? Interesting.