Smaller than a modern five pence piece made of nothing more valuable than gilt and paste, Grandma’s locket could hardly be considered an heirloom. Until, that is, you unpack the stories.
The locket tells of two wonderful times in my Grandma’s life.
Grandad’s picture matches the wedding photos leading me to think this was a wedding gift. As my uncle recently said, “she worshipped me father.” There’s Thomas in the background, brother Thomas, twelve years older, who acted as the father figure when my Grandad’s dad died but perhaps didn’t always act in my Grandad’s best interest when it conflicted with his own.
Grandma’s picture appears to be taken from the one below. She’s with Mary & Jim Marshall (George’s sister & brother-in-law) and likely one of George’s sisters. Neither Aunty Mary nor Aunty Hilda ever had children of their own and remained close to Grandma all her life.
Yet the patina of this locket holds far more of our family history than just two photos of special times.
Twelve times in my life (so far) people have broken into my home and stolen money, TVs, computers, rings and whatever else was worth selling at the time. In one particular house it became fairly standard to come home on a Friday night and find that the house had been broken into. I’ve learnt how to hide or wear the few pieces of jewellery that is either valuable or sentimentally important. I’ve learnt not to take it personally.
Twice though the burglars have taken an entire jewellery box.
The second time was (I hope) my last burglary. I lost the necklace my dead husband had bought me and the ring I’d bought myself after sneaking away with my sister from him & his friends to visit the diamond museum in Amsterdam. I lost the silver bracelet which held charms purchased to reflect twenty years of my life. I lost the paste necklace that was my go-to for posh black-tie events. I lost the little silver stamp holders that made me smile every time I posted a birthday card. I lost the poppy brooch my Mum had bought me because it was the flower for my month of birth. I lost the cheap plastic orange ring that was festival perfect. I even lost the box that my sister had carefully chosen to store all these “treasures.” It hurt.
The first time this happened it was my Mum who suffered. Six months after my dad died Mum arrived home to find our house had been broken into. They’d watched the house; they knew she took my sister to playschool on a Friday morning. They’d gone straight to her bedroom and ransacked one jewellery box, before someone disturbed them, and they ran taking the whole of the second box. So many memories embedded in inexpensive jewellrey that would likely just get thrown were gone. Unlike when it happened to me, Mum had never been burgled before. Whether you’ve experienced this type of crime or not, take a moment to think how it felt to lose so many memories so soon after losing the person to whom they related.
Grandma did the best she could. She took out her own jewellery box and encouraged my mum to take what she wanted. The tiny locket was amongst the things Mum chose. And in doing so this tiny locket became a family heirloom.
One of the wonderful things about writing up & sharing these stories is they often lead to more family memories. Amongst the contents of Grandma’s jewellery box was a broken signet ring. Mum had it mended and inscribed with A for Ann. When my sister tried it on she declared it was A for Anna and it has remained on her hand for the last 30 years!
I am planning a series of stories about objects imbued with family heritage. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and was finally inspired to write by a workshop on the history of an item by Gudrun Laurent part of the wonderful Curious Descendants Club run by Natalie Pithers.