Heirlooms, Memories of Home


It’s been a long time since I lived in my home town of Searcy, but I’ve maintained my connections with friends with short visits even after my parents passed away. One of the joys of taking up writing has been meeting new people from the White county area and forming friendships.

Christine Henderson is one such writer friend. She writes the blog Through the Looking Glass under the name Gayle Glass www.gayleglass.net. She agreed to let me share one of her early memories. I know you will enjoy it. I think you’ll enjoy this post about truly constitutes a home.

            In 1957, I was eight years old, and my mother’s ceramic club made pixies. Standard pixies, with small, spindly legs and arms, child-like, androgynous bodies, and oversized heads. They wore typical pixie clothes – boots of leaves folded and pinched around the feet, the clothes of woven leaves and vines, and the hats were leaves twisted so that there was a point at the top, like a Hershey’s kiss. And, speaking of points, what pixie would be complete without his pointed ears?
The faces were round with fat cheeks and huge, lashless eyes, big smiles, and small nubbins of chins. Each cheek contained a large, deep dimple. They looked mischievous as, well, pixies.
There were pixie figurines, ash-tray pixies perched on the edge of a huge leaf; salt-and-pepper pixies – a boy and a girl, naturally; and to go with them, the cream-and-sugar pixies. However, my favorite was the cookie jar.

            By far the simplest of the creations, since it was only a head and a hat, the cookie jar was life size – at least, it was the size of a toddler’s head. After Mom made it, it claimed its space on the corner of the counter.  We quickly became accustomed to coming home from school, taking off the hat, and retrieving the seemingly endless supply of Toll House Cookies that Mom stashed in it.  

One day when we were horsing around in the kitchen, one of us kids – I don’t remember exactly who noticed it first – looked at the cookie jar and exclaimed, “Hey – it looks like Tommy!”

Tommy was the son of our parents’ friends, and the same age as my brothers. He also had big, brown eyes and a great grin. But the thing that distinguished Tommy – and the cookie jar – was the dimples. Tommy (the real one) had those pudgy cheeks, with dimples so deep you could push your index finger into each one up to the first joint. 
We all stopped and stared at the cookie jar. And we all agreed. It looked like Tommy. So, from that point on, it was the Tommy Cookie Jar. 
We were a military family and the first 25 years of Tommy’s (the jar – not the kid’s) life, it was moved about 20 times. Most people think of a certain house as a home, but we learned that houses were just buildings and home was wherever the family was. The Tommy Cookie Jar was a symbol of that. At each house my folks lived in, the jar found a place on the kitchen counter, where it proclaimed, “THIS is home.”

Chris & her brothers at one of the stops
in their military childhood

            My daughter, the first grandchild, learned as soon as she could walk that the Tommy Cookie Jar at Grammy’s house was always full. The other grandchildren and the great grandchildren learned it, too. When the folks built their ‘dream home’ a few years back, we all celebrated the move with them. The first question as they unpacked was  “Where do we put the Tommy Cookie Jar?”

My parents often asked which pieces of artwork, furniture, crystal, silver, or other things of theirs we would like to have when they are gone. While they have many valuable and beautiful things, I always told them that above all else, I MUST have the Tommy Cookie Jar. So the last time I visited, Mother asked me if I would like to go ahead and take it. She said although she still used it she was afraid it would get broken and I wouldn’t get to have it.
I guess she didn’t get it, either.  Things happen at home. Dishes are broken, furniture gets scratched, and things wear out. If it gets broken, that’s okay. That means the family is still using it, and we are still a family. But after much argument, I brought it home, where it sits on my counter and now greets my visitors as they arrive.
            I have many family mementos – tatted pillowcases and a crocheted afghan that my grandmother made, dishes that belonged to my other grandmother, jewelry from a great-grandmother, and an old pair of Ben Franklin-type eyeglasses that was my great-grandfather’s.  They are cherished, but none has the personal attachment that the cookie jar does.  It is 56 years old now, and by my count, has lived in 28 homes.
No, I’m not afraid of breaking it. What I am most afraid of is that, when I am gone, Tommy will not have any meaning to anyone. It will just be an old ceramic cookie jar. And the memories will all be gone.
Do you have a cherished object from your childhood?

5 thoughts on “TOMMY”

  1. Oh yes I have several cherished family objects. I too worry that someday they won't mean anything to anyone. I am forever reminding my kids, “Now you know my Daddy made that, right?” I LOVE that your mom had a ceramics club:))


  2. Oh yes, I handed down my mother's china pitcher that she always used to serve Kool Aid and lemonade. I didn't keep it long because I've already passed it to a daughter whose middle name is for my mother. Like the Tommy cookie jar of Christine's, the pitcher reminded me of home.


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