Most of the items in the vintage section of my shop have come from all the various nooks and crannies around the house. No buy and resell here. Nope! Just loot from all those corners of the basement. While the term "vintage" varies from site to site, Etsy (where my shop resides) defines "vintage" as items that are over 20 years old.
That means just about everything in our homes qualified as "vintage." A friend and I recently looked around my living and dining rooms and pointed out the items that had been with us for what seemed like "forever." She noted my Boston Rocker, stating she remembered that from my Mom's living room years ago. I declared "That's a 'Family Heirloom', not just vintage."
So, what separates Family Heirlooms from your run-of-the-mill vintage pieces?
I believe it's the emotions they evoke and the stories that bring about those emotions.
That Boston Rocker brings me comfort. It reminds me of that living room in Mom's house, too. It brings back fond memories of the family sitting around together watching TV. It was my Grandmother's seat of honor most evenings. She wasn't much for super soft upholstered seats and she really did like to rock when she sat. I can tell you exactly when that rocker came into our lives, too - Summer, 1965!
My sister was getting married that summer and was out shopping for furniture for their new apartment. Mom, Grandmother and I went along for the fun. (The groom really didn't want to be dragged from store to store so he left this up to her.) One of the big furniture stores near us had a wishing well just inside their main entrance and invited all who entered to fill in a little slip of paper with one particular piece they would love to win just for the "wishing." Every month, a slip of paper was selected and the winner was given their item of choice. Well, Grandmother didn't really want to participate but we forced her. She had commented on the beautiful design painted on the top of the rocker's back. (It was kind of a standard design back then!) She listed the rocker just to make all of us happy and dropped her slip in the wishing well. She wiped it out of her mind minutes later.
A few weeks later, Mom happened to answer the phone while visiting my grandmother. it was the furniture store. Seems they'd been trying to let Grandmother know she'd won the most recent drawing and find out when they could deliver her new chair. She'd brushed off several prior calls by telling them she simply wasn't interested in buying furniture. What can we say? She'd never won anything before and really thought it was just some sort of sales pitch.
They soon delivered it. I think it was "Love at first sit." When she moved in with us a few years later, it became a prime seat in the living room. Years later, long after Grandmother's passing, it came to live with me when my mom moved in with my brother. It now sits in my over-crowded living room where it still remains a favorite spot to sit (and rock). I must say, I always think of Grandmother as I take a seat there - and, they ARE very GOOD thoughts.
I've considered refinishing it from time to time. The arms are actually worn to the point of showing the natural wood tone as opposed to the black lacquered finish. Parts of the design at the top are faded almost completely away. Then, I think of those "flaws" as part of the rocker's story. Most of the younger members of the family were rocked in that chair, I've read many a good book there and my friends have spent many hours sitting in it chatting with me over the years. Who would want to refinish those memories? Not I.
These days we keep an old crocheted afghan tossed over the back of the chair as it sits in front of a large curio cabinet. The afghan is there more to protect the glass front of the cabinet from the chair but we've all come to think of them as a pair. The afghan is also a family heirloom, thought not quite as old. Nothing special when it was made, it is still not much to show off but it was made by someone no longer with us and it holds a special spot in our hearts.
The good news is, the next generation has already laid claim to the chair "when we're ready to give it up." D says she wants it for "all the same reasons" I love it. It's just one of the many family heirlooms around here. (She's also put "dibs" in on quite a few other items around my house. Is it a bad sign when they start making such statements?)
So, what wonderful family heirlooms do you have lurking around your homes and what stories do they tell?