I’m concerned that my children will not appreciate the things I plan to leave them and that they don’t really understand – especially in this time of too many gifts – why some of my family’s items are more precious to me than things I buy today. How can I help instill in them a sense of family history?
Hearing the stories behind family possessions is often more important than owning the objects themselves. Tell the stories behind everyday items as you use them: as you make dinner using grandpa’s lasagna pan, as you place the ritual foods on grandma’s Seder plate, as you put flowers in the vase you received as a wedding present. When you gather for the holidays, ask members of the older generation questions about family items to elicit stories from them. You might be surprised to hear family tales that even you have never heard before.
And tell your children the history of your own items. The stories don’t have to be old or impressive; they’re interesting because they are yours. If the diamond you wear came to you because your great grandmother hid it in the seams of her clothing when she left the old country, that’s a fascinating story. If you bought the diamond for yourself with your first paycheck – not wanting to wait for any man to give it to you, feminist that you were – that’s a great story. If the diamond is a recent gift from your husband, a celebration that you’re finally empty nesters and dating again, that’s a wonderful story. Each story is a part of you and, almost as much as your DNA, helps to define who you are.
Think of the stories as your gifts to your children. As they grow up, they’ll treasure them more than any object you can leave them.