Have you had the experience of trying to decide what to do with all the furniture and objects accumulated by generations of your family? Do you have outbuildings, a barn, an attic, a storage space full of those items? Do you wonder, why am I hanging on to all this stuff? You, my friend, are not alone.
In her new book, Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past One Chair, Pistol and Pickle Fork At a Time, Lisa Tracy takes us on her journey as she and her sister Jeanne come to grips with disposing of 5 generations of precious memories. For that is what she discovers is the problem as they wrestle with the decision of what to keep and what to let go: each item holds their ancestors’ essence.
I could not put this book down. Lisa comes from a long line of military leaders who moved from base to base from the east coast to the American West to China and the Philippines, the men fighting in wars and military skirmishes from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and Wounded Knee to the Boxer Rebellion, WWI and WWII. Her book is a very readable cross between cultural anthropology, US military history and Antiques Roadshow. She uncovers family secrets and solves some family mysteries as she researches the provenance of items they decide to send to auction. And she also finds some mysteries are lost in time.
My only quarrel with this book is that I wanted more photos of the objects described. As it is, there are several old family photos and photos of objects such as “the Canton plates”, the “Burr pistols” (but not THE ones), and the “sandai chest”. Each of this items and many more hold a place in the family lore.
Notably missing from this book is a family quarrel over who gets what. It comes down to Lisa and her sister Jeanne. Before their mother dies she makes them sit down and make a list of what they want, begging them not to fight over the items once she’s gone, something my own mother has also warned myself and my three siblings not to do after she’s gone. The only difficult part for them is letting go. Each piece of furniture was a grandparent or parent’s favorite and all they can see is them sitting in them. Each object has a story wrapped in the family history, of how and where it was acquired. How can they let their past go? They keep their favorites and those items they feel they can “manage” in their own homes. You will feel their pain as they witness precious items they could not keep auctioned to strangers. You will feel Lisa’s contentment when she moves back to her family house and the objects she kept are “home” again.
I hope you will read this book and take the journey of family remembrance and letting go with Lisa. It may help you come to terms with your own Objects of Affection.