One of my most prized possessions is my Nana’s old recipe box. (Corey Bullock file)

Farm life: the meaning of a memory

I live in an old hospital. It was built in the late 1800’s. So when we first moved in and decided to renovate, we worked hard to keep the original charm of the building intact. E and I felt a responsibility to make sure that when you walk through the front door, you know that this place has a story to tell.

All of the windows are original. Beautiful, but not the most energy efficient. The flooring in our kitchen is also original and we spent days sanding it and coating it to protect its integrity. Even the paint colours we chose were decided upon with the building’s history in mind.

We were pleased that all of our furniture would fit in with the ‘old fashioned’ feel of the building as well. Most of our furniture has been passed down through generations, whether it’s our couches or dining table or the old oak desk in our front room, which was once at the Kimberley Bulletin office and before that belonged to a Kimberley teacher.

I’m not one for holding on to things if they no longer serve a purpose. I’ve been in full spring cleaning mode and the amount of books and magazines and clothes I have to donate feels good.

Things that hold special memories though, they are here to stay. E was recently gifted many items from his Grandmother and Grandfather and they are proudly displayed on our fireplace mantle, in our kitchen, or on our bedroom nightstand. Some things remain tucked away and are only used for special occasions, like the beautiful set of tea cups and saucers that his Grandfather used to drink from every day.

When my Nana passed away several years ago, she left me with some pretty special things that hold a lot of memories for me.

She split up a set of dishes between my cousin and I. Nana made these dishes by hand and they resemble cabbage. I call them my cabbage patch. I remember telling my Nana when I was really young that I loved that set of dishes. We hardly ever got to eat with them, but they were always proudly displayed in her China cabinet and I admired them from afar. Now I use them every chance that I get and I think of her and my Papa every time I use them.

Shortly after Nana passed, my parents were helping to organize her things. They opened up the chest that sat at the end of her bed and on the inside of the lid was a note. It said nothing other than my full name. My Nana knew how much I loved that chest. I never outright asked for it, but always commented on its beautiful wood and craftsmanship. The last time we spoke, I sat at the end of the bed, on the chest, and told her I loved her. That is a very fond and dear memory of mine. I do believe that chest was given to her from her grandmother as well.

Another gift I got from her, among many others, was one of her famous recipe boxes. It’s an old wooden box with dozens of recipe cards inside. Some of my most favourite recipes of hers are in there including nuts and bolts, meatball soup, melting moments and classy chicken. All of those recipes take me straight back to my childhood. They remind me of my grandparents but also my mom and dad and brothers. Now, when I find a recipe that I like whether it’s online or in a cookbook, I take out a recipe card, write down the recipe, and add it to her collection.

She had several other recipe boxes that were given to other family members as well, but I lucked out with this one because those recipes that I love so much were included. It’s funny because sometimes I have a really hard time deciphering what her handwriting says. I’ll send a picture to my mom and ask her to decode it because my mom knows Nana’s handwriting that much better.

Both E and I feel so lucky to be gifted these family treasures. We’re not cluttered with a bunch of old stuff. We are blessed with so many memories. I have a system for displaying certain things. I rotate between our most favourite items. I tuck some away in a box, only to be brought out at Christmas time, for example. And every time we pull out a new rotation, stories come flooding in. We laugh. We shed a tear. We marvel and wonder and remember so many great things.

Many of these cherished items will be passed on to our kids one day as well, and we will share stories with them about their great grandparents. How Nana was stubborn, but strong as hell. How E’s Grandfather was stoic, kind and gentle.

All of these little things around our house have a memory attached to them. A lesson learned, good or bad. A story told through generations. Hard work. A laugh shared. A final goodbye said. Looking to the past with fondness and admiration. Taking pride in all of these things that we’ve shared with our loved ones. There is meaning in a memory.

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