My paternal grandmother was very dear to me. Many things contributed to our bond: I was named after her, she was the closest woman I had to a mother as I grew up, and she introduced me to the Catholic faith. She didn’t drive, and my grandfather—who did drive—passed away when I was a toddler. Since I lived closer to her than her other grandchildren, after I got my license it was natural that I helped her with errands and shopping. As our relationship grew, so did my understanding of the impact she had on me and everyone she encountered. She was vibrant, opinionated, and maintained the perfect level of dignity until the day she left this earth nearly ten years ago.
Recently my cousin asked if I or one of my daughters would be interested in taking ownership of a chair from my grandparents’ Airstream Travel Trailer that, for years, carried them on winter visits to Florida. Though I hadn’t seen what our family affectionately dubbed the “Airstream chair” for at least a decade, my mind’s eye had a clear vision of the magenta metal frame and the velour-striped cushions in the same color tone. I agreed to take it without a second thought about where I would put it or how acutely its mid-century design might clash with my current décor. Grandma Herzing’s chair joins a group of treasured items I have that once were hers.
I also prize a pair of ceramic ducks that stand at least a foot high, a set of Asian dolls, art manuals (though I’m not artistically inclined), a few of her original paintings, and a menagerie of other trinkets. Generally I’m not overly sentimental, tending to favor practicality over partiality. But when it comes to Grandma’s things, I put aside my usual sense of order.
This wasn’t always the case. In my youth, when Grandma would present what she deemed useful items to me, I’d often politely decline. I’ve made similar offers to my grown daughters in recent years, and most of the time they say no, just like I did.
Perhaps nostalgia blossoms as we get older. There’s no doubt appreciation does. Whatever the reason, I decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I relish the vivid memories my grandma’s things inspire. I dusted the frame of the chair, carefully spot-cleaned the fabric surrounding its arms and seat cushion, and placed it in my living room.
To an outsider, I’m sure the backdrop of the dark leather of my accompanying furniture and the pops of bright yellow accents do more than clash, but to that I give not an ounce of care! Thank you, Grandma Betty Herzing, for all the memories of our time together and for instilling in me the appreciation for faith and family I hold today and can carry into the future.