My mother came to visit a few months ago, and with her she brought a big box. Going through the box was an adventure of sorts. It was a curious collection of random items. There were pictures I hadn’t seen before, old time negatives, CDs, cryptic notes on paper and information I had asked for – those and more had all been placed in that box with my name on it. Some of the things we went through together while she was here, but time ran out and some things were left for me to go through on my own after she left. My head told me to go through the box after the holidays or after I finished the five projects I’m working on or when the elusive slowing down of life happens. But my heart told me to tackle it soon. I’m glad I listened to my heart.
I went through each paper and picture. I checked information on our family chart. I went through every CD of pictures, adding to files those I didn’t already have. I made good progress, but there were some items I didn’t understand which required questions and answers. One thing in particular puzzled me. It was a small gray pouch. And inside the pouch were tucked two quarters. I wondered what the purpose of the pouch could possibly be.
Everyone goes through difficult times. My mother has been through more than most. She has endured big challenges with grace. During one such challenge, her father wanted to do something practical to show his love and support. He gathered things that he likely already had on hand and he hand-stitched a little pouch, the perfect size to comfortably hold two quarters. He designed the pouch to close securely with a snap and he attached a short chain that would allow the pouch to hang next to keys on a keychain where it would always be handy to use if needed. And when he had finished his handiwork, my grandpa gave that little pouch to his daughter, my mom.
Mom explains the purse this way: “Long before the days when we had cell phones, phone booths were located where people could stop and make a phone call, and there were a lot of them. Phone calls in those booths cost $.25. My dad gave me this little purse with quarters in it so if I ever got in trouble, I would always have a quarter to call him and he would come and help me. That happened during an uncertain time in my life. It was such an act of love and care from him that it meant a lot to me.”
My mom kept that pouch for many years. It was a reminder to her of her father’s love. She parted with it to give it to me to tell another family story, a story of love between a father and daughter, of care and concern, and one that provided a powerful statement of protection and a sense of security during a scary time.
There is no practical use for that pouch anymore. It’s another item of family history that holds no monetary value yet seems priceless at the same time. I will keep the pouch in a place where it will remind me that my family history is more than names and dates. Each story about a person in our lineage sheds light to the personality of the name on a chart. Like the stitches holding the pouch together, my family history is a collection of stories that weave love through past generations and create a meaningful foundation for those who follow. I’m looking forward to telling my children about the tiny gray pouch and it’s purpose.