Presents Of A Lifetime

Perhaps it was the two dogs in this picture that prompted me, about a dozen years ago, to say to my mother “Mum, I’m not going to buy you anything else that I wouldn’t want back eventually”. It would have been more than thirty years ago that I bought her these Balinese carvings from a friend of Jessica who shipped them over here., along with the reindeer whose story is told in “Surprise”, from a friend of Jessica who shipped them over here. These artefacts were very in vogue at the time. I knew Mum would like them. I don’t. They remained on either side of her fireplace until she moved to Woodpecker’s Care Home.

It had long been her custom to stick a label beneath each of her store of ornaments and other treasures indicating whoever had given them to her and consequently to whom they should pass at her death. There has been a limit to what she has been able to to take with her to Woodpeckers so she and Elizabeth have begun decanting them now.

I have quite forgotten donating many of these gifts, some of which were given with Vivien who died in 1965. I suspect the ceramic basket is one of those.

The copper bowl and ceramic vase both bear the name of Jessica who died in 2007.

The glowing, perfectly fitting, treen container was bought with Jackie at Chichester’s Christmas market c2011.

Apparently my daughter, Louisa, bought the china dish, and I bought the Royal Grafton thimble.

This collection was brought over by Elizabeth yesterday. It is the first batch of my share of the presents of a lifetime.

This evening we dined on succulent roast pork; sage and onion stuffing; crisp roast potatoes; firm carrots and cauliflower; tender runner beans, and meaty gravy, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Repasse de Montagne 2019.


  1. Your mother was very organised with her recording who gave her what! I’ve been getting stuff back that I gave my parents over the years but I don’t know if they chose these gifts specifically because they remembered me buying them or if it is chance. Thankfully, I like what is coming back to me, though I never as a teenager expected such. Who would?

  2. It always amazes me how much sentimentality takes over when a parent’s home is dismantled. Because people’s tastes differ so greatly, often there is nothing one wants to ‘inherit.’ I ended up with little from my mother’s home, and am currently working on removing much of that from my own home — it doesn’t fit with my ‘things,’ and I have no use for it, so it simply takes up space! Having said that, the treen container and the ceramic basket that you have inherited are lovely — the dogs would sit by my fireplace until I found the perfect recipient for them!

  3. Oh Derrick, this is so sad. I remember going through my mother’s jewellery box with her weeks before she died. Fortunately I have inherited from her the attitude that what we own is ‘just stuff’. Nonetheless, quite coincidentally I received news tonight of some small items I am to inherit from my English aunt who died earlier this year … I am more determined than ever to clear our house of what our children might regard as ‘clutter’ before I move beyond the physical. I admit to palming off some dreadful things from my husband’s mother in boot sales and the like and purchasing books with the proceeds – all unbeknownst to him! If you really don’t like those dogs, you may be surprised that someone else really does!

  4. definitely going to be interesting to see the “returns” for you – and now as the first lot is with you – possibly you are trying to remember “other gifts” ….I inherited some “silverware” and a lovely writing box … I’ve already handed them on to a niece as I had no where to house them… my childhood books finally arrived after they went through my (now elderly) sister’s children… a more recent (decade ago) arrival was all my Father’s piano music which I still have…not that I’ve got a piano!

  5. I dread inheriting my MIL’s ornaments. They are almost entirely on the ghastly end of the taste spectrum – I hold my hand up to inherent snobbery. Maybe I can shift them a generation to the grandchildren?

  6. I love that your mother attached labels to remember. For years, I collected Boyds Bears music boxes and I did the same, along with the date. Like yourself, I have many of my parents belongs in our house from their downsize. Thanks for sharing, Derrick.

  7. This is so bittersweet. I am very impressed with how organized your mom is! You might want some of things just to remember her by–but put a label on them for who should get them next. ?
    I still have a room full of my mom’s paintings that I haven’t been able to get myself to go through.

  8. It’s a useful idea to label gifts, Derrick. We have done the same in my family in the past, which now reminds me of the backlog of labelling I need to do so to bring this up to date.

  9. I had two childless, widowed great-aunts, so I began inheriting books and pottery in my teens. They provided a very good example, as their homes were small and spare. I wish you luck in sorting out the treasures.

  10. That is a thoughtful post on memorabilia. More than lingering around those objects, those memories live in our thoughts that are irrevocably associated with certain events. It is as if a slice of time around someone has remained frozen.

  11. It’s good that you’ve been able to do this in stages. My parents were collectors who lived in the same house for almost 50 years and never downsized before they died. Many things were hard to get rid of for sentimental reasons, but there’s not much room in my modest house. Still, it’s nice to have the photo albums and a few treasures, like old letters, to pass along.

  12. My Aunt Gene put labels on things with names of people she wanted them to go to. That’s a good idea, putting on a small label noting the giver. I quite like the dogs, and that little ceramic vase.

  13. All unique and wonderful pieces! Coop and I especially love the dogs! πŸ™‚
    When I was in my 30’s a friend in her 70’s showed me how she was marking underneath all of her art pieces and knickknacks so they would go to those she thought would love them most/or back to those who gave them to her. I thought that was a superb idea! πŸ™‚
    Seems your Mum had that superb idea, too! πŸ™‚
    Ha! I especially love your idea of giving gifts to your Mum that you would be happy to see again, in your own possession some day. Smart!!! πŸ™‚
    HUGS!!! πŸ™‚

  14. I have started the process of handing over treasured possessions to my son. He can keep them or dispose of them as he wishes and it will save time when I have gone.

      1. Thanks Derrick. I hope so to. I have seen people go crazy at house clearance time and treasured possessions get dumped. This way my son can take a considered approach to retention or disposal.

  15. interesting pieces. your Mum is so thoughtful and organized in labeling who will get the pieces in the future. she is admirable! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  16. PS-My mother did the same thing. which was helpful, Regarding those times left unmarked, but we had given her or particularly loved. I am happy to have a few beautiful or useful items; so many went to others in a house sale and then to second hand stores…

  17. I read something recently that referred to “the tyranny of heirlooms”. Decluttering has highlighted that we have quite a lot of stuff that we don’t like but keep out of sentiment. My new view is that if I’m getting rid of books I’m damned if I’m keeping some of the stuff I seem to have accumulated from past generations. They can live on in my heart and my photo album, but I’ve kept too much bulky stuff and have to face up to the fact that we want to move to Suffolk, want to down-size and don’t want to hand a massive job on to the kids.

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