Several weeks ago, I was in the process of turning my breakfast room into an office and couldn't decide whether to put my grandmother's china back in the china hutch or fill the hutch with books.
This lead to a wonderful discussion with the Seekers about the most prized possessions and heirlooms we've inherited. My grandmother's china, my grandfather's 22 rifle, my mother's handmade THREADBARE toddler coat are just three treasures I wouldn't part with for anything.
That coat isn't worth a plug nickle to anyone else, but I'd fight you for it!
Don't believe me? Just try it! lol
So, when Connie Stevens and I were discussing her topic for this week, I mentioned that if she wanted to focus on treasured family heirlooms, it would fit seamlessly with my vision for Calico Trails.
Her response: "OH MY GOODNESS!!! How perfect is that?? The heroine of my newest release has four treasures—the only things she has to remind her of her mother who died when she (the heroine) was very young. In addition, I just discovered a family heirloom that has been in my possession and I didn’t realize I had it. My mother gave me “Grandma’s Bible”. But I just recently discovered it’s NOT my grandmother’s Bible. It is my grandmother’s grandfather’s Bible. 5 generations old!!"
Wow, isn't God's nudging amazing? I, for one, can't wait to read all about Connie's treasures. So, here's our guest for this week.
Welcome author Connie Stevens!
It’s hard to live for more than sixty years on this planet and not accumulate a few treasures along the way. I’d have no trouble filling several sheets of paper, naming those special items that are barely worthy of notice by some, but priceless to me. Most mothers collect mementos of their children’s growing up years—kindergarten art projects, mother’s day cards signed with a childish scrawl, a lock of hair from the first haircut, the first baby tooth that was carefully tucked under a pillow to await the tooth fairy, baby books, photo albums, and memories—so many memories.
Then there are those family heirlooms that are handed down from generation to generation. During the last ten years of my mother’s life, she methodically gifted each of her daughters with pieces of her past. Her mother’s china, her grandmother’s glassware, old books that had belonged to her aunt, scrapbooks, and pieces of jewelry, just to name a few. I have an old photo album of my grandmother’s, as well as a pair of seed pearl-embellished gloves she wore when she sang in the opera.
About eight years ago, knowing that I collected antique Bibles, my mother handed me a tissue-wrapped parcel, and told me, “I want you to have Grandma’s Bible.” I was thrilled to say the least, but for some reason I cannot fathom now, I did not take much time looking through it. Not long ago, I was dusting and my duster snagged on the corner of Grandma’s Bible. I pulled it from the shelf and carefully disentangled it. Then I did something I should have done eight years ago. I sat down and opened it, looking at the “family pages.” It was then I realized what I had. This was NOT my grandmother’s Bible. This was my grandmother’s grandfather’s Bible.
The printing date was 1863. Listed there were my great-great grandfather’s birth and marriage dates, his siblings—one of whom died when she was but four months old. The genealogy of six generations unfurled across the pages. The last three generations were added in my mother’s handwriting, which included my two sisters and me, and our children.
Also tucked within the pages of the Bible was an old photograph of my great grandmother.
I’d heard numerous stories about her, but never gazed upon her face before. She was beautiful. I was staggered to realize the treasure I’d had sitting on my bookshelf for eight years. This wasn’t just any antique. This outlined our family’s history. With shaking hands, I called my sisters and told them about the Bible. What a priceless treasure to hand down to the next generation.
In my new release, HEART OF HONOR, my heroine, Abigail Locke, has four treasures—a cameo brooch, an ivory-handled hairbrush, a daintily-embroidered handkerchief, and a lace collar. It’s all she has to remind her of her mother whose face Abigail cannot remember.
Abby’s father, an Army colonel, insists she leave the army post and travel to Charlotte, North Carolina due to the tenuous conditions surrounding the relocation of the Cherokee nation just prior to the forced march to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. She digs her heels in and doesn’t want to go, but she has no choice in the matter. Her traveling companion is a widow lady from the fort, and their guide is Nathaniel Danfield, a dishonorably-discharged army lieutenant.
Abby tucks her mother’s keepsakes into the bottom of one of her trunks. While traveling through the mountains of north Georgia, an accident causes the wagon to plummet down a mountainside, taking Abby’s trunk and her cherished treasures with it. Her heart is grieved at the loss. For Abby, it’s almost like losing her mother all over again.
Nathaniel doesn’t know about Abby’s treasures, and thinks she’s being ridiculously petty, pouting about the loss of her trunk when she should be grateful they all survived. When he learns about those precious items contained in the trunk, to what lengths will he go to recover them for her?
When I look at the family heirlooms my mother gave to me and my sisters, an affinity forms in my heart for this character. Abigail lost her mother at such a young age, she has no memory of kisses or caresses, stories or lullabies. All she had was four keepsakes--tangible vestiges of a connection with the mother she can’t remember.
The antique Bible I cherish is tangible proof of my family’s heritage. I may not have ever met the people whose names are inscribed on those pages, and I may not be able to picture their face, but they are part of me. Like my mother before me, I want to pass this Bible on to the next generation. In this case, since my son has preceded me to heaven, the Bible will go my mother’s oldest grandchild—my niece. But I’ll make certain all of the nieces and nephews have photographs of the Bible and its pages.
I’ve been blessed with a love of history, but holding my own history in my hands was a gift that can only come from the generations before us.
About Connie: Connie Stevens lives within shouting distance of the north Georgia mountains. She and her husband have been married for 38 years, and share their house with one cantankerous kitty named Sweet Pea. Connie’s first novel came out in January 2011 and she has published and/or contracted six more books since then. When she isn’t writing, Connie loves browsing antique shops where she gets plenty of ideas for stories and characters. She loves reading and gardening, and when she has time, she enjoys making quilts for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Connie has been a member of ACFW since 2001. Visit Connie’s website at http://www.conniestevenswrites.com and look for her (and Sweet Pea!) on Facebook.
What a pleasure it is to have Connie as a guest this week! Thank you so much for sharing your family treasures with us, Connie. I can't imagine how your heart jumped for joy when you discovered how old that famaily Bible is!
I'd love to hear from more readers about the hand-me-downs and family heirlooms that you wouldn't part with for anything. And if you'd like to share your story and pictures on Calico Trails, visit my website at www.pamhillman.com and drop me an email. You don't have to be an author to be a guest. I'd love to hear your story and see your pictures!