Kathyrn Graves

Heirloom Stories

My son and daughter-in-law took a recent trip to New Zealand. While they were gone, I stayed in their home and cared for my grandson, Carson. Upon their return, Jeremy and Glen presented me with a pair of jade earrings. Greenstone, as it is known in New Zealand, is not mined, but gathered from deposits on the ground, before being fashioned into pieces of jewelry.

Neither of the kids is a beach-vegetable type, so rather than a relaxing vacation in the sense of lounging around, this was a grand adventure. They even named it Jeremy and Glen’s Grand Adventure. They did things like hiking up mountains to spend the night on top, sea kayaking, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.

On one of their hikes up a mountain, they encountered parrots. Not just one or two parrots– flocks of parrots. And these were no caged, tame birds. When they arrived at the sleeping hut for the night, the ranger told them to bring their muddy shoes inside because the parrots would eat them if left outside. I’m serious. The ranger also told them of a couple who arrived in a soft-top Jeep. The next morning the parrots had eaten the entire soft top.

This adventure story was relayed to me while I was driving with Carson in my car. I have Bluetooth, so the call went straight to the speakers in the car. Carson listened in disbelieving silence, punctured only by an occasional, “Really?!” The facts lay so far outside our realm of experience we could hardly believe them.

But because people we love and trust told us about it, and they saw the birds for themselves, we believed. And we hungered for more tales of extreme adventure. We couldn’t go on the trip ourselves, but we could live it vicariously through stories.

The gift of the jade earrings caused me to remember another grand adventure. This one was mine. After my junior year in high school, I traveled to Europe for 38 days as part of a People-to-People student ambassador group. We visited nine countries with home-stays in three of them. A home-stay meant we lived with a local family in their home for five days.

One of our home-stays was in Germany. I stayed with a rather well-to-do family and we developed a friendship that lasted many years. On several occasions, I received a gift from them. One gift was a jade parrot necklace pendant. I loved that pendant and wore it often. But after several years, it spent more and more time in my jewelry box. I almost forgot about it.

When I looked at the new jade earrings, I remembered my jade necklace. And I realized it must surely have been made in New Zealand. It was, after all, a parrot. As soon as I returned home, I dug out that parrot. Putting it in the box alongside the earrings, I saw the perfect ensemble.

Every time I wear my jade jewelry, I will think of two grand adventures and all the stories we collected from them. Are these earth-shaking, life-changing stories? No. But they’re our stories, our family stories. Because of course, now I need to tell my own grand adventure stories to my grandson.

Have you told your family your grand adventure stories? Do they know the special memories you hold so deep in your heart you may even have almost forgotten them? Do you own a memento that will help you remember your dusty, old stories? Maybe it’s time to dig out your stories and share them. Tell them, or write them, but bring them out of storage for your kids and grandkids.

My friend, Karen Jordan, says, “Tell the stories that matter most.” I think family heirloom stories matter most.


Photo: Kathryn Graves

By Kathryn Graves                                 



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