Trash to TreasureWritten by Teresa Clark
“You look like her.”
The words stunned me. I looked like her? How could she possibly know that? We were talking about our Great, Great Grandma after all. In all of my days I had never seen a picture of her, never even considered that one existed. Yet, obviously this distant cousin knew something I didn’t.
I grew up in a world devoid of pictures of ancestors. My mother had studied Interior Design in college. Everything was put together perfectly. But there certainly weren’t any pictures of ancestors gracing the walls. Since we lived far away from all of my relatives I guess it never really occurred to me that there could be. Ancestors were kept on family group sheets in dusty binders, not on the walls.
The day I finally got my own copy of the picture of my great, great grandma was a thrill. The researcher in me was giddy with excitement. How many other pictures existed I didn’t know about? I wanted my children and grandchildren to see them all. I wanted them to be able to recognize the people, not just know their names. I started sleuthing. Some photographs had been handed down through different lines of the family. I even found some old pictures in my parent’s own files!
A dream began to grow. Someday, my family room walls would be decorated with family. I decided it was possible to honor my mother’s legacy of carefully designed home décor while honoring my quest to surround my loved ones with gone but not forgotten family. When we surround ourselves with ancestors we realize an added depth to who we are and what we are capable of. I wanted to make the walls inviting to look at with texture and interest but I wanted them to elicit story.
As I studied the photos I realized there was stuff in the backgrounds; knick-knacks from homes long gone captured in the photos. Some of those knick-knacks looked awfully familiar. I attacked our storage boxes with a vengeance. Old stuff, things I had believed were sentimental trash, suddenly became anchored to places and times and people. They were tied to story! Now I could enhance my walls.
The sentimental trash became treasures hung on the walls by the pictures they were tied to. Each grouping designed to invite the viewer to want to know more. Visitors to my family room don’t just see décor they see gateways to story. It’s not uncommon for my guests to insist on hearing them all before they ever take a seat.
I knew I’d succeeded when I overheard my father talking to my mother about my basement décor. “She doesn’t just hang things on the walls,” he said, “She anchors everything to memory. I remember so much when we visit here!"
What treasures do you have stored away that can become gateways to memory. Do you know where your family pictures are? Can your children recognize their ancestor’s faces? What can you do today to create memory rich home décor?
A national award-winning storyteller, historian and author, she is best known for her original works and recollections of life's experiences blended with history. Teresa has presented and performed throughout the United States. Of her, it has been said, "Charming, witty, soulful, and wise, her performances are filled with a compelling sense of wonder and an irresistable zest for life." Her story work involves performance, education, production, and advocacy. From the main stage to individual consultations in living rooms across America, she delights in the excavation and sharing of family story. Most importantly, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother to her favorite playmates and best friends.
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