How Objects Can Carry Family History
If we used movies as a reference, we’d assume that every father in the world has valuable, generations-old family heirlooms to pass down to his son. You shouldn’t feel bad, however, if your family doesn’t have any time-worn treasures that come down through the ages. In these increasingly disposable times, fewer and fewer items are worth saving and giving to your children. But, if the idea of having a special object that passes through the hands of all the men in your family is one that you like, why not start the tradition yourself?
Kick Off An Heirloom
If you’re the one that starts the heirloom-passing, you won’t necessarily feel the sense of history when you look at the object, but you can look into the future and imagine your great-great-great-grandson admiring it in the year 2175, which is pretty cool.
When you choose an object that will be passed down from one generation to the next, there are a few important considerations:
Durability – Pick something that is physically durable so that it won’t deteriorate through use or time. While it’s normal for these objects to be stored and used with care, kid gloves should not be required.
Usability – Whatever you pass down, you want to make sure that each man who receives it will actually be able to use it or enjoy displaying it. Regardless of the monetary or sentimental value, it won’t be very appreciated it if it can’t be regularly enjoyed.
Trends – Don’t choose anything that is valuable now only because of trends or fads – this will date the heirloom and make it less valuable to future generations. Get something that is classic and timeless so that even a few hundred years from now, it will be a treasured gift.
Size – While it’s a nice idea to pass down an imposing mahogany desk, it may not be very practical. You never know how your descendants will live, and their tiny, futuristic apartments may not be able to accommodate a huge piece of furniture. Go with something that will be easy for anyone to accept, keep and care for.
What to Pass
If you are a sports fan, this may be the heirloom for you. Obviously you’d want to choose memorabilia from a player or team that you’re passionate about – even better if it’s a player or team that your father or grandfather loved as well. One piece of advice around current players: Don’t choose a young player who’s just starting his career, even if he is a superstar. You never know what may happen in his career or personal life that may tarnish his reputation.
Think back to when you were a kid – how many times did you stand in the mirror, fascinated by the sight of your dad shaving? And when he finally taught you, it was a kind of symbolic entry into manhood. That’s why passing down shaving accoutrement is so very appropriate.
If you don’t have any classic antique gear, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality modern set that includes a brush, a mug and a beautiful stand that he’ll want to display on the sink. Just imagine that set in the bathroom of all future generations of men in your family – they’ll be reminded of your legacy every morning as they partake in that eternally masculine routine.
What’s manlier than a solid set of tools? If you’re the handy, DIY type, tools could be the best bet. Just be sure to buy a top-of-the-line set that can put up with lots of wear and tear. The idea is for your descendants to actually use the tools and think of you and the family line each time they do. Also, think about investing in an attractive tool box so that all the pieces will stay together with each pass-down.
A classic timepiece is one of the most common heirloom choices for a reason – watches are both beautiful and functional. Even the most high-end, centuries-old watch can be worn day after day, for many years, by many generations without any loss of function. Handcrafted, well-made watches are built for exactly this purpose.
If you decide to go with this type of heirloom, you ought to make a solid financial investment in a piece that’s work keeping for centuries – no one’s passing down a Swatch. Brands like Omega, Breitling and Tag Heurr are perfect for men who are looking to get into the heirloom game with a watch that will only grow in value over the years. You should find a trusted and reputable jeweler in your area as a fine watch requires occasional attention to keep it maintain its form and function for the long haul.
Whether you’re a professional or amateur musician, you’re instrument probably has great personal value to you. Even if you just like to casually strum the guitar once in a while for your own pleasure, you may want to consider investing in a nice one that you can give to your son one day. This comes with the added bonus of being able to pass down your knowledge about playing it. Owning and playing the same instrument could become a wonderful tradition for the men in your family.
Make it Special
It may be many years until you actually pass down the object you’ve chosen to be the new family heirloom, but begin thinking about that moment now. One of the most important parts of a family heirloom is that it reminds the recipient of the giver. With that in mind, be sure to frequently use, show and talk about the object with whomever will receive it. This way, when you do finally pass it down, it will have real meaning.
Also, remember to record the story of how you came to own the object and stories of how you’ve used it over the years. The object itself is not nearly as important as the words that will be repeated by each man as he gives it to his son. It may even be a good idea to write down some things about it on durable, archival paper that can accompany the item each time it’s given to a new person.
When the time comes to do the actual passing, make sure that you make it feel almost like a special ceremony. Be sure to explain to the recipient who you’d like him to give it to – if he doesn’t have sons, would you like it to be given to a daughter? If he doesn’t have any children, should it be given to another relative? Think these things through. Additionally, you should probably add a provision to your will that guarantees that it ends up in the right hands if you don’t get the chance to put it there yourself.
Don’t let the fact that your father didn’t pass an heirloom down stop you from creating the tradition for your son, his son and all the sons to come. Think of it this way: when the story is told, it will always start with your name and the story of your life.
Author Bio: Ed Bush is a managing partner at Barmakian Jewelers, New England’s premiere purveyor of diamonds, watches and fine jewelry. With over 100 years of experience, Barmakian Jewelers prides itself on its personal, attentive service and customized designs. For luxury watch brands like Tag Heuer, Breitling and Omega in Boston and everywhere, visit Barmakian Jewelers or connect with us on Google+.