by Jeanmarie Hamilton
Do you ever wonder what happened to the toys you gave away every year right before the holidays? I was thinking about some of those toys the other day. What toys did you give to the charities that collected them for children who might not have any gifts? What did those toys mean to you?
While watching Antiques Road Show the other night, an appraisal of an old miniature chest reminded me of a small wooden doll dresser I played with in my early years. It wasn't fancy, but it was painted cream with blue trim, had rounded wooden drawer pulls and three drawers. It couldn't have been larger than about 14 inches tall and 12 inches wide. I kept my dolls' clothes in that simple wooden chest that someone had made, and somehow it had been given to me. Alas, it was given to the toy collection at the fire station in our neighborhood. I wonder where it ended up. Did a child enjoy it as much as I did? Did it end up broken and left outside to fall apart, or does someone still appreciate it and take care of it? What is its value today?
I also wonder what happened to the doll clothes my grandmother sewed for my dolls. And whatever happened to the dolls I loved and played with before they were given away? Even though my dolls were given to the fire department toy collection, I retained my love of dolls. Before they were all gone I even learned how to sew doll clothes with my grandmother's help. She taught me to sew on her old sewing machine, the kind that had an iron foot rest that I had to learn to tilt back and forth with my feet in order to spin the wheel that moved the needle up and down. The oak sewing machine table had two small drawers, one on either side. There was a rhythm to pushing the foot rest with my feet. It was a soothing rhythm just like the hum of the wheel turning. I'll never forget those days with my grandmother learning to sew and the satisfaction of making something. I put the doll clothes I made in that doll chest.
While rearranging the spare bedroom recently in preparation for a holiday visit from my daughter and son in law, I came across a shoe box full of bits of sewing materials for making doll clothes. It belongs to my daughter. We made clothes for her dolls when she was very young. I made some of the clothes, and she made her version. The doll clothes in the box that held the bits of sewing materials brought back great memories. I put the box with its contents away carefully to save for her to remember those times.
While she was visiting we discussed family heirlooms and the value of keeping some of them. Not only do they have value as useful objects in our daily life, such as a full size chest of drawers, but they have other important values. With one word, my daughter taught me a new reason for their importance to us. The word she used is mnemonic. At the time, we were all talking avidly about family heirlooms and so I didn't interrupt to ask her what the word meant even though I knew it was a very important word. I looked it up the other day, and used as an adjective it means recollective, memoried, retentive, retrospective, reminiscent, mindful, remindful, suggestive, redolent, evocative. What a wonderful, important word. And it just proves how valuable cherished objects become. Gifts given to others may become more important than we'll ever know over time. They may even have mnemonic value. I hope you have some in your home. :-)