It all started with my dad’s trip to Germany in the 1960s. He returned with lots of stories, and gifts for his daughters. My gift was a Hummel figurine. Until then, I had no idea what a Hummel was, but I soon learned they were unique (at the time) and kind of expensive, especially for a young teen like me to have. I placed the porcelain replica on my dresser in my bedroom. It depicted a young boy looking through an old-fashioned camera on a tripod, with a puppy at his feet. I loved it.
My mom did, too. So, when Christmas arrived, I opened a present containing another Hummel figurine. And, four days later on my birthday, another Hummel. And, so it went for many years. An aunt who had no children gave me a few of hers. Even my boyfriend got one into the mix.
And, here I am, many years down the collecting road, with a collection I didn’t once add to on my own, trying to figure out what to do with a couple dozen Hummel figurines!
Let’s go back to my mom for a bit. During a trip to Europe, she fell in love with fine, porcelain figurines produced by the Lladro company, and another collection began. This time it wasn’t for me. They were all for her enjoyment. She had a great “excuse” for adding to her stash. Every time she bought a new Lladro, she would stick a piece of masking tape underneath the base, and write a name on it. Roxy. Kim. Ann. And then all eight grandkids. Then, she doubled down and started from the top.
When it came time for her to downsize, she passed a couple of “my” Lladros on to me, but kept a few in her new apartment.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Lladros are beautifully made (and expensive), but they aren’t “my taste” at all. They are much too fancy. But, I kept them on a rotating display in my house for her to see.
Until she passed away, that is. Not only did I suddenly get possession of all “my” Lladros, I also became the keeper of my kids’ figurines. But, Mom’s precious possessions weren’t precious to me. I wasn’t only left with her collectibles, I was also left with guilt at the thought of giving them away.
Mom was also an avid photographer. I love the MANY photos she took of me and my sisters while we were growing up. Four years after my dad died, mom remarried. (I was already married myself by then.) Mom and Reiny were enthusiastic RV’ers. They traveled the United States with their series of motorhomes. All along the way, Mom was snapping photos, getting them printed and then organized into a multitude of photo albums.
Guess who inherited those?
Paging through her albums was a wakeup call for me. I had been to none of those places. I’d met zero of the people they met along the way and who were grinning at me now. Those photos meant absolutely nothing to me. They evoked no memories. I asked my sisters and Reiny’s two kids if they were interested in the albums. Without even seeing them, they said, “No, thanks.”
And, that’s when I got my wakeup call. I suddenly realized most of my photo albums would mean nothing to my girls. Oh, I have plenty of albums featuring them, but my husband and I have taken some nice trips I documented with photos, photos and more photos. And, yes, I put them in albums.
That realization put me into a downsizing frenzy. I didn’t want my girls to have to figure out what to do with all my stuff. I started sorting and tossing. (I kept my albums. My girls have permission to toss them when the time comes.) But, I wasn’t about to “toss” my Hummel figurines. I sent photos to my daughters.
“Do you want this one?” No. “What about this one?” No. I dug some other precious-to-me things from closets and drawers. “Would you like this?” No. “What about this?” No.
Over the course of several weeks, I kept it up. Surely, one of my Hummels? One of “my” Lladros? Or a dozen from my snowman and Santa collection? No. No. No.
Finally, my oldest daughter wrote back, “Mom, all we want is the lake cabin.”
I laughed. Of course, they would want the “biggest” thing we own. But, I’ve come to realize the lake cabin holds years and years of family memories. They want the cabin, not because it’s valuable, but because of the time we’ve spent there together. That is where the value lies – in the time spent and the memories we’ve made. Together.
Believe me, I think twice before I buy any new “thing” for my house. I realize it is just temporary enjoyment for me. I keep in mind a few words from the Bible: All these “things” will pass away, but what remains is the greatest thing, and that is love.
Roxanne (Roxy) Henke lives in rural North Dakota and is working on finding good homes for her remaining Hummel figurines. She is the author of eight novels. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.