People have mixed feelings about keepsakes. Some family members might feel like holding on to an object is unnecessary. The family relic is a cluttered reminder of a memory that will live on without an object’s presence. In contrast, other family members feel like family relics connect us more profoundly than a thought or memory can create.
The truth is our brains are hardwired to connect memories to objects and sensations. According to psychological research, the area of the brain that stores memories is also the same area that stores sensations and sensory information, specifically touch memory. Science offers a glimpse into why keepsakes are such a powerful key to unlocking shared memories.
When you snuggle up in the quilt, your grandmother made, kept in her house, and passed down to you. Your brain is connecting the sensations of the blanket with the memory of your grandmother. Objects become imprinted with the people and places, and keepsakes can keep memories alive!
Increase generational connection
Science aside, passing down family heirlooms is a beautiful way to honor the past and the family who came before us. As an object changes hands from one generation to the next, we connect our family members: past, present, and future. Family relics are shared with a story and purpose. The more connected we feel to our family stories, the more passionate we are about sharing them with the next generation. These relics are an embodiment of shared purpose and lineage, not just a dusty tchotchke in grandma’s cabinet.
Act as a reminder of shared memories
Do you have a pair of lucky socks you wear for every presentation? Or a favorite shirt you wear on the weekend to relax? People are creatures of habit. We have special items that we rely on to elicit certain feelings.
Family heirlooms are no different. Holding on to a family keepsake can immediately take you back to the way you felt when you first experienced the memento and fill you with a sense of connection with the family members who owned it before you. By simply handling the object, we can relive the memories it holds and share them with future generations.
Keepsakes create new memories while keeping old memories alive by encouraging us to share a story and a smile. It is easy to get bogged down with the sadness of family loss. By revisiting memories through mementos, we often remember lively or purposeful experiences associated with our loved ones. Keepsakes offer an opportunity to celebrate our past family members’ lives while keeping their memories alive in the future.
Create an heirloom
We create new memories every day. Family keepsakes are often associated with memories of the past, but these relics all came from somewhere. Are there stories in your family that aren’t being told? What will you pass on to your future family? Remember that a family heirloom is as much about the story and people associated with it as it is about the object itself. Create a project to hold on to it for future kin keepers; what experiences are you living today that will become family stories in the future?
Family mementos keep memories alive through one, simple thing– connection. The connection begins with the object itself, but as time passes and the story evolves, that connection shifts to people, stories, and family— an object journeys from generation to generation, building bonds and developing a sense of shared purpose.
Memories are kept alive by the objects we bring along our journey. As time passes, these keepsakes become the connection between family members that we rely on to tell our stories and keep our family’s memories alive. How are your keepsakes keeping your family memories alive?