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Mementos Make A House Homey

Updated on September 8, 2015
A ceramic keepsake from an artist friend
A ceramic keepsake from an artist friend

My Favorite Keepsakes & Their Stories About Us

I like to think I'm not materialistic. In fact, I can't stand clutter and am always looking for things neither my husband nor I have used in a long time and can't see us using any time soon -- things we might give away, sell or trade. And having lived through a flash flood in which many of our belongings were ruined, I realize how little material things really mean. My husband and my pets are everything.

At the same time, though, there are items around the house that do have sentimental value and I'd be disappointed to lose them. Each time we've moved, these are mementos that make me smile when I unpack them, and I take care in choosing the right spot -- the right shelf or wall space -- to display them. And once I have these keepsakes in place, the new house looks more like home.

Here, I'd like to show you some of those favorite keepsakes and tell you a bit about them. Of course, it's really the memories they conjure up that's more important than the things themselves.

Keepsakes from Israel
Keepsakes from Israel

A Memento from the Holy Land: Wooden Candlesticks From A Mystery Man

Who was he, and why did he give these to me?

I was sixteen, on a summer-long trip to Israel with a group of chaperoned teenagers. We spent those months traveling the country, living and working on kibbutzim, hiking, sightseeing, learning, maturing (and, of course, flirting). It was an experience I'll never forget. I'm so glad I kept a diary of the trip, which I just finished re-reading, now 23 years later.

During the first of two visits to Jerusalem that summer, I visited the Western--or Wailing--Wall. After following tradition by placing my private, hand-written note in a tiny space between stones then milling around for a while, watching people pray, celebrate, dance, talk and even cry, I wandered over to the steps that led out of the square and took a seat, to people-watch from a higher vantage point.

It was there that I was joined by an old (make that ancient-looking), Hassidic gentleman in black clothing and black hat, with pure white payots hanging on either side of his face. He sat two steps behind and above me as I ate my peanut butter sandwich. I turned to look at him, and he greeted me with a semi-toothless grin, a nod and Hebrew words I didn't understand. Then he offered me some of the bread he was eating. I hesitated but accepted. Not knowing what to do next, I offered him a piece of my peanut butter sandwich. He didn't hesitate for a moment.

Several weeks later, during a second stay in Jerusalem, our group revisited The Wall. This time, part of the visit was intended for honorary Bar and Bat Mitzvahs for those of us who'd never had them back home on our 13th birthdays. I'd memorized my Hebrew lines phonetically, but I had no idea what they meant.

After the brief ceremony and picture-taking, I headed back towards the steps. I was feeling tired and not in the mood for dancing or chatting. I returned to that same step I'd occupied on my previous visit.

While I was sitting there, watching all the activity below, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning to look behind me, I saw a figure silhouetted against the sun. He stooped, and I recognized that same Hassidic gentleman I'd shared bread and peanut butter with! Was this a coincidence? To my surprise, he handed me a brown paper bag, patted my head, and as quickly as he'd appeared, he was up the stairs and gone.

How odd, I thought. Did he just give me his lunch? But when I opened the bag, my mouth dropped open as well. Inside were the two wooden candlesticks you see here. And that's really all there is to the story.

A Scene from the Wailing Wall

A Scene from the Wailing Wall
A Scene from the Wailing Wall
Handcrafted Unfinished Wood Shadow Box
Handcrafted Unfinished Wood Shadow Box

Choose the stain or paint that best matches your decor and hang this on your wall to showcase your miniature keepsakes. Each slot is 1.5 inch deep.

 

Display Your Smaller Keepsakes in a Shadow Box

My parents used to have one of these, hanging on the wall in their bedroom. Theirs was an antique, stained dark, and there was a small memento in each window. I remember when I was a child, standing there studying each one, each time as though I was discovering them for the first time.

My dad used to tell me stories about those keepsakes, from the WWII medals to the toy soldiers, the figurines, the unusual shells and other knickknacks. I don't know what ever happened to that shadow box or the little treasures it held.

Darice 9171-24 Natural Unfinished Wood Craft Display Memory Box
Darice 9171-24 Natural Unfinished Wood Craft Display Memory Box

This one is two inches deep, which is a nice space for holding small items so they won't fall out. You might use a bit of glue or two-sided sticky tape for extra security.

 

A Keepsake from a Special Day: Our Wedding Invitation and a Haiku By My Husband

Trail leads to twilight....

I met my future husband when we both went to work at the remote, snowed-in Kaibab Lodge on Grand Canyon's northern rim. Just eighteen of us would be employed there for the winter -- fifteen guys and three girls. One of the girls was married to one of the guys, and the other girl preferred girls. So it was really like me and fourteen single guys. And I picked the nicest, sweetest, fuzziest of them all to be my best friend. We shared many common passions, including hiking and the great outdoors. We clicked from day one.

Three years later, that same man wrote this haiku for me for our wedding day:

Trail leads to twilight

Winding in and twisting out.

We walk, holding hands.

I just love it. My fiancée designed the wedding invitations too, with a photo of the Grand Canyon scene we enjoyed many times that winter we met. (The haiku was printed on the translucent front flap, but it's faded now, so I've lifted the cover up for this picture.)

Wedding invitation keepsake
Wedding invitation keepsake
Keepsake quilt
Keepsake quilt

A Keepsake from my Mother-in-Law: A Quilted Anniversary Gift

Made with loving care

My mother-in-law, is a very talented quilter. She made a wonderful bed quilt for us as a wedding gift (pictured below). So she finished it a few years after the wedding. That's okay, better late than never, and I love it. On the back of the quilt, she even embroidered that haiku her son wrote for me.

Several years later, my mother-in-law told me she was working on quilted wall-hanging -- a San Francisco Peaks scene from here in Flagstaff -- for our anniversary. Okay, so it was a couple anniversaries later that she actually gave it us, but I sure do love this quilt, too.

Maybe I should ask now for a replacement bed quilt. Ours might wear out in a decade or so. :)

Keepsake quilt
Keepsake quilt

A Natural Memento: Gourd Art From Our Life On The Farm

Keepsakes from seed

In 1998, my husband and I moved from a small New England farm to a gentleman's farm in Pennsylvania. We were property caretakers, living on the land in the owners' absence, tending to the animals, the grounds, the buildings and equipment and to our own interests in our rather abundant free time. Among those interests was gardening. We grew most of our own food and then some. The "and then some" included gourds.

Pictured here are several of the gourds I turned into something else, two of which are useful (the pitcher holds water, and the bowl works fine for soup and cereal) and one just for fun. That one is called "James in the Giant Gourd."

Whenever I look at these gourds, I'm reminded of our years on RamCat Farm. In turn, I think of the animals we knew and loved and all the things we learned, like how to make hay and shear angora goats. Farming -- even on a gentleman's farm -- was sometimes hard work, but we cherish the experience and the memories.

Gourd art
Gourd art
A keepsake from my Appalachian Trail thru-hike
A keepsake from my Appalachian Trail thru-hike

A Keepsake from a Long Journey: A Special Backpack

Used on a bucket list trek

My backpack from the Appalachian Trail

When I was 17, I became a student at the University of New Hampshire. Soon after, I joined the New Hampshire Outing Club and began hiking in the nearby White Mountains nearly ever weekend.

One afternoon, as I walking along Franconia Ridge, one of my hiking companions told me, "If you follow this trail that way, you can go all the way to Maine. If you go the other way, you can end up in Georgia." We were standing on the Appalachian Trail.

"Wow!" I replied. "Has anyone ever done the whole thing?" Little did I know, thru-hiking that 2,200-mile footpath was becoming ever more popular. Well, I decided then and there, I would someday walk the length of that trail myself.

That dream simmered for ten years, until it bubbled to the surface full force in 1998. My husband and I were living on that New England farm I mentioned, in Kent, Connecticut, which just happened to be an A.T. trail town. It was there that I met a thru-hiker at the laundromat and inundated him with questions, all of which he was gracious enough to answer in great detail. For two more years, the A.T. was at the forefront of my mind.

Later that year, we moved to RamCat Farm in Pennsylvania. And that caretaking situation was such that I could get away to finally fulfill that A.T. dream while my supportive, wonderful husband took care of our responsibilities on the property. In fact, he encouraged me to go, to do what I'd thought about (and talked his ear off about) for a long time.

So, in April, 2000, I took my first step on the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain in Georgia. Roughly 5 million steps later (so they say), I reached that final white blaze on Maine's Mt. Katahdin. I have so many memories and a number of mementos from those six months on the trail, including this squeaky Kelty external frame backpack. It's retired from backpacking now, but it's one of my favorite keepsakes and home decorations, usually leaning up somewhere against a wall.

And if my worn-out A.T. hiking boots hadn't washed away in that flash flood back in 2003 in Arizona's Bradshaw Mountains, they'd probably be sitting right next to that backpack.

Memento from a ceramicist friend
Memento from a ceramicist friend

Art Pieces From Our Favorite Ceramicist

Hand-made keepsakes

My husband and I lived at a place called Lowell Observatory, located at the top of Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lowell is where Pluto was discovered and a place where my husband spent much of his boyhood years and now is employed. The observatory and the people who live and work there are very special to us, and we're so fortunate to have called it home.

One of our Lowell neighbors was long-time Buildings & Grounds Supervisor and ceramicist extraordinaire, Jerry McLaughlin. Jerry had a kiln and pottery studio at the Observatory and taught a ceramics class at the local Community College. He's not only been my husband's coworker and instructor, but he's also a wonderful friend, so we're happy to decorate our home with some of Jerry's beautiful pieces, including the vessels and plate you see here.

Country Music Marathon keepsake
Country Music Marathon keepsake

An Achievement Keepsake: #21035 From The Country Music Marathon

I know it's just a piece of Tyvek, but ... still.

I've never been what you might call a natural runner. Just not built that way, I guess. I did run cross-country in junior high and high school, but while I made the Varsity team, I never was one of the faster runners. Endurance, though, was my strong point.

After high school, I stopped running and turned instead to hiking and eventually long-distance backpacking. But I'm a very goal-oriented person, and, in 2007, when I got my mind stuck on completing a marathon, I had to start jogging again.

At first, I struggled to do two miles. I could hike 20 or more in a day, but somehow the act of running -- loping, more like -- just did me in. Must use different lungs and muscles for running than hiking.

Eventually, though, I'd worked my way up to six miles, then ten. And in January, 2008, I ran the P.F. Chang Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix, finishing in just over 2 hours. Next would be the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee on April 26th.

For three months more, I ran nearly every day, building up to 18 miles by early April. Training here in Flagstaff, at 7,000 feet above sea level (and sometimes hiking to more than 12,000 feet) had really made a difference when I ran the half-marathon in Phoenix, which is at about the 1,500-foot elevation. So I figured, with the Country Music Marathon being at just 500 feet above sea level, I could probably get away with running less than 26.2 miles before the big day.

And that turned out to be true. I did hit the proverbial "wall" at right around mile 22 and walked as much as jogged till mile 25. Then, when I could hear the huge crowd and music at the stadium in downtown Nashville a mile away, my energy returned full-force, and I ran over the finish line, beating my goal time of 5 hours by six minutes. I checked "run a marathon" off my list ... and went back to hiking.

Marathon keepsake
Marathon keepsake

That round, green sticker, by the way, has a #14 on it, because that was the corral number I moved up to. I'd originally overestimated how long it was going to take me to complete the marathon when I first signed up. By race day, I was pretty confident I could move up to a faster corral. Turns out, I could have moved up even a bit more, but that really didn't matter.

© 2009 Deb Kingsbury

Do You Have A Special Keepsake Or Memento? What is it and why is it special?

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    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      I do have a few things. Like you, I am not a hoarder, but we spent some time working in Papua New Guinea where I made some wonderful friends, including my daughter's God parents. I have a plate made by Mechior, her Godfather, from the Rorovanna tribe, that he gave my daughter on her Christening day. We still have that at home. I also have a medal for my first marathon that I ran on Bougainville Island in PNG. That's also pretty special.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I have a couple: a clothespin doll my maternal grandmother made and a paperweight that was my aunt's of a vintage image of car driving through a giant redwood. Love these items!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Wow you have some very fascinating keepsakes. Most of my mementos have been lost along the way as I tended to move around a lot throughout my life. Fortunately my two favorite mementos are still here and those are my daughters ;)

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      Loved learning about your favorite keepsakes! I'm a non-clutter type of person too, although certain pictures & a few mementos I'd be sad to lose. In 1999 we were living on the Georgia coast when Hurricane Floyd forced a mandatory evacuation (which thankfully did not 'hit' our area). Hubby's brother was visiting us when the evacuation notice came. He said 'but what about your stuff?" as we were preparing to have 3 people leave in a VW beetle with no room for anything except our important papers. I said "that's what it is, George - 'Stuff'. Stuff can be replaced; people can't".

      The following year we replaced our tiny car with 2 bigger cars and, since we still lived in 'hurricane country' we decided there were clothes, pictures & a couple other mementos that we could pack in two trunks and two back seats and 'save' what we'd hate to lose.

      My 'favorite' mementos (besides family pictures) are the art work on my walls, which are ALL done by my artist daughter, her artist husband, and an artist friend. :)

      Enjoyed your story very much.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I enjoyed returning to this great lens and reading the stories behind your treasured Mementos.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      When mum was living she gave me a fancy cake plate that she used to serve 3 layered cakes. She iced the cake with cooked white frothy icing that reminded me of snow on a mountain. I really treasure that dish as it brings back memories of special times with mum, family and friends. Loved this lens.

    • Shoputopian profile image

      Karnel 6 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

      What a great lens saw the link in Squidu posted by Graceonline, I'm so glad I was able to read it...

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Wonderful read -- as Graceonline attested at SquidU. The quilt is very beautiful. ...My favorite is the story about the candle holders. Would love to know what the old man was thinking when he handed them to you and patted you on the head. ...I also try not to get too attached to things. It really is about the people in our lives. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I hadn't seen this before Deb. It good to have good memories, and I'm glad you made this lens. May it remind you of happy times, and precious moments of your life with Steve. I know it does. I wish you all the best and bright happy future.

    • sharioleary profile image

      Shari O'Leary 6 years ago from Minnesota

      I have one that is only special to me. My husband doesn't understand why I keep it around. It's an old drop leaf table that belonged to my grandmother.

    • MyFairLadyah2 profile image

      MyFairLadyah2 6 years ago

      yes, memories are in the mind

      but keepsakes help the mind rewind

      lovely lens :)

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Sometimes I feel privileged to be able to bless a lens - this is one such time.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Just when I needed a break, I stumbled across this lens. Beautiful! Charming. Relaxing. Thank you. I love every one of your keepsakes. What a lovely way to tell your life story.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      Deb, when you start to tell a story, doesn't matter what I'm doing, I have to stop and listen. Loved this collection of tales about your mementos. I have one or two, but nothing as interesting as your stories behind them. I know your life has taken you around a new bend in the trail since you wrote this but you seem to be the most amazingly determined person, and I've no doubt new treasures and tales and mementos lie ahead! Angel blessed.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks for sharing. This is a wonderful lens! Blessings from your friendly home decor neighborhood squid angel. We're adding your lens to our lensography on that topic too. You can see it at http://www.squidoo.com/lenses-blessed-by-this-squi...

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I have a few mementos that bring back memories. Love this lens, I really like personal stories, because they are all unique and different. Blessed by an angel.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love having around things that have really some meaning for the family even if my house does not make it to the pages of the magazine. It makes the house a home. You have beautiful quilts.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh, I loved seeing your very special keepsakes. Thanks for sharing. I have way too many but just can't seem to part with them. They are everywhere! Super idea for a lens.

    • profile image

      seegreen 7 years ago

      Y.yes I have too many! I especially love some of the thing my kids have made. Wow, the quilt your MIL made is gorgeous!

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Great lens. Thanks for sharing your personal photos. Angel Blessings :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Regarding the wooden candlesticks, it seems clear that this was a Bat Mitzvah gift and intended to be used for Shabbat candles. Perhaps he saw you arriving earlier and went home for them, as it seems plausible that the old men who hang out there know what is going on. But it seems equally possible that it may have been a magical spontaneous moment of synchronicity that he had them with them. (Perhaps he was the craftsman who made them.) I see the candlesticks as a beautifully symbolic memento of your journey intended to bless your future home and marriage. It looks like they may be olivewood, which signifies, among other things, peace. Lovely idea for a lens; you have inspired me!

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Wonderful Lens on your Keepsakes. They really add special memories to your home. Happy Holidays to you and Best Wishes for 2010! :)

    • groovyfind profile image

      Samantha Devereux 7 years ago from Columbia Mo

      Does my Husband count? LOL

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 8 years ago

      I like those quilts! My apartment is also full of keepsakes and momentos.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      Enjoyed reading about your life and mementos. Blessings!

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image

      thepartyanimal2 8 years ago

      I think this lens is great and it is filled with personality - thanks for sharing your goods!!! You have been Blessed by The Party Animal. Party On....

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      I loved your wooden objects and ceramics... and of course your husbands haiku. Wonderful lens.

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 8 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I love how you give such insight into why each of these items is important to you. It comes through so clearly.

    • Snozzle profile image

      Snozzle 8 years ago

      I think my wife and I probably have too many keepsakes. We keep trying to clear some of them out but one of us usually ends up saying something like, "But don't you remember ..."

      Memories are so important.

      Mike.

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Sometimes I wish I was an angel. I'm giving you a raggedy blessing anyway! Love the stories behind your mementos.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I loved reading about your homey home. :) Isn't it true that we all collect personal momentos.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens. YOu've got some very beautiful stuff in the house.

    • profile image

      WhitePineLane 8 years ago

      Oh - I forgot to say that my favorite is the wooden candlesticks and the man who remembered you from the previous time and thought enough of you to want to give you something! That's a really great story!

    • profile image

      WhitePineLane 8 years ago

      What a wonderful lens. I read the whole thing and was very interested. It's amazing what you can learn about a person through the special things they keep. Thanks for sharing!

    • amy1980 profile image

      amy1980 8 years ago

      That mountain quilt is beautiful, and I'm trying very hard not to have envy in my heart! I really enjoyed this.

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago

      I love this lens!

    • SoSimplyStephanie profile image

      Stephanie 8 years ago from DeFuniak Springs

      Beautiful art pieces. I am a sentimental freak and like to keep everything. My kitchen is in collected apples that have been given to me over the last few years. EACH and everyone has a special meaning as I only bought myself a few. All the others were given to me. My Build a bears are also a prize for me because those started on my honeymoon and have grown over the last few years for special occasions and birthdays!

      Nice lens!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      Unlike you, I am a proud and totally unreformable packrat. I love to aquire momentos from wherever we go and I hold on to the momentos that my grandparents and their grandparents found special. Each momento has it's own story and possibly because I am a very hands-on person, I find that they are the best way to feel a connection with those people from the past and and stories that their momentos tell.

      I see that your momentos are beautiful pieces of art. They, no doubt, are what starts conversations when someone comes to visit and help you to recall their stories. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Blessed by an Angel today (squidoo.com/more-angel-blessings)

    • profile image

      poutine 8 years ago

      Very interesting to see other people's momentos.

      I have a few myself that I wouldn't part with.

      But I don't have a digital camera right now to post them.

      Great idea for a lens.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Some nice mementos! It is so important to keep these in the family and earmark who they will go to when the time comes! I didn't get enough of my grandma's mementos.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      What wonderful memories - thank you for sharing! One of my most treasured pieces is a rug my grandmother crocheted out of plastic bread bags. It has been next to my bed for 30 years and shows no signs of falling apart! :D

    • FunGifts4All profile image

      FunGifts4All 8 years ago

      Very nice lens. Loved the topic.

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 8 years ago

      Hello,

      I really enjoyed reading about your treasured things so very nice !!

      Candlesticks from an old man at the Wailing Wall so cool !

      All of them are beautiful and precious, thanks for sharing...

      Robin

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 8 years ago from Concord VA

      Wonderful lens! Thanks for sharing with us, once again. You've certainly led an interesting life!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens. Terrific pictures. How little things mean so much.

      Thank you.

    • cjsysreform profile image

      cjsysreform 8 years ago

      The story of you and your husband is so sweet, and the wedding invitation is gorgeous. I also like the quilt... it reminds me of a similar one I had on my bed as a kid. 5*.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I love this lens. It's fascinating to see the things you treasure and to read the stories behind them. 5*, lensrolled and featured.