Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesdays With Rita: Heirlooms, Cedar Chest

Today I'm thinking about heirlooms and how they become such things. I never knew my dad or his family. He was an alcoholic and he and mom divorced when I was young. My sister being 10 years older has memories of him. Daddy was killed in a head-on car crash when I was about 10. Mom and Betty went to the funeral while I stayed at my other grandparents.

Afterwards our Grandpa Sam called Betty aside and told her she should have the cedar trunk our dad made in high school for his mother. It is now until we can arrange to have it brought to Arizona. I think about the love he had for his mother as he built this huge chest. How she must have cherished it so much. Her name was Carrie and she died before I was born.
Betty always said he could do anything. Woodworking is just one of those things.

All that is left of our father is this trunk and some photographs...well and me. Betty passed away three years ago. The family grows and fades but those special heirlooms remain as a testimony to who they were. Daddy loved his mother, he loved my mom and I know he loved Betty and I, his disease just kept him from being able to be with us.
That's my dad on the back left. Handsome wasn't he? His parents are in front.

One of those funny things of genetics; my sister looked just like our Aunt LaFerne (back row, second from the right) even down to the red hair.

Share with us a picture and/or story of a family heirloom. Put a link in your comment and I will pay you a visit.


  1. Wow Rita, I'm so moved by what you shared here. My heart aches for your dad and the struggle you all had to endure from such an awful disease. It's obvious he was remarkably talented and cared so much. I'm happy you're here to carry on and share these memories with us and perhaps you'll all get a "do-over" in the next life.♥

  2. so sorry about your dad.
    I love that you have photos, and that wonderful trunk. It is fun to see how we look like relatives, do you look like any in the photograph?

  3. Wow Rita, what a wonderful story. And how cool that the trunk was saved and is in your possession now. So many people would have just sold it at a garage sale.

    Sadly, I have no family heirlooms. My mom wants to sell her diamond ring that was her mothers (my Grandmother) because it wouldn't be "fair" to give it to ONE of the four children :-( So while it was brought over from Russia and kept safe during the war, it will be lost to us.

  4. Love seeing the trunk and the photo of your dad. He was handsome!

  5. That was a beautiful trunk. I love heirlooms like that, that can be passed down the generations. I love old photo's-the one you posted is so crisp and clear for it's age. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Your story brings to mind the reason the trunk is called a HOPE CHEST, and as you said...your Dad loved his Mom, your Mom and You...there's always hope for love, family and heirlooms to be passed on from generation to generation.

  7. I'm so happy that you have such a kind and generous attitude about your dad even though you had so little contact with him. Alcoholism sometimes makes kids bitter about things.

    The trunk is just beautiful. What a lovely keepsake!

  8. Rita thanks for stopping by my blog, #254 on the hop~ Yes - I'm in Queen Creek Az! About fam. heritage - I just finished reading the book on Winnie Ruth Judd. She was convicted of murder back in the 30's in Phx. Come to find out my grandmother was one of the ladies that would get her hair done by Winnie at the state hospital she was sent to. If you are not familiar with the story - you should google it or read the book - very interesting read on early AZ history! Will be back to read more in your site later - tfs!

  9. Great story and a lovely trunk. I have one that is similar that my great-uncle made in 1942. Do you know the birth year of your trunk? It is so similar that I am wondering if Popular Mechanix or some such had plans in it...Lori from sketchbook.

  10. Wow. So many comments. Lori, the trunk was made in 1939. There is a written note on the inside. Thank you to who ever took the time to do that!

    I try to be positive about my life and my dad. I'm just sorry he lived in a time when all they did "for" alcoholics is put them in jail. Glad we have progressed since then.

    Jeanne... I do know about Winnie Ruth Judd. I went to a talk by Jana B., the author, that she gave a few years ago in the same courtroom at the Maricopa County Courthouse. That was kind of weird. She talked a lot about her meetings with Judd.

    Thank you all for the comments. I'm never sure how to answer. I hope you all find this comment.

  11. Beautiful heirloom! It's wonderful that you realize that your Dad loved you even tho he wasn't there. Jean

  12. Rita,

    This reminds me of what we always called the "cedar chest" when I was growing up. It never occurred to me to ask who made it or when. It was just always there, in the little room with the knotty pine walls that was supposed to be my mother's sun room but became my bedroom instead. Now it sits in my bedroom at my house. It holds a big family Bible (in German) with names of my father's brothers and sister written in with their birth dates. And my mother's navy blue wedding suit from 1922. And some of her crocheting. And who knows what other memories. Thank you for reminding me.

  13. Rita,
    Your moving post reminds me of my grandmother's story. Here name was Betty and she lost her Dad at thirteen through divorce and was never able to see him again. She told me once though that she knew he loved her--he was simply troubled and there was a lot of shame around divorce at that time. When my grandmother was about to pass away from cancer, she called out to her dad as if he was standing right by her bed. I'd like to think he was.
    I am sorry for your losses, but am so glad you are able to write about them with such compassion. --Mollie


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