Warm thanks to my friend, fellow Kentucky native and author Georgia Green Stamper, for sharing this grandmother’s tale of deja vu and antics that repeat across generations.

Last week, I tagged along with my youngest daughter, Georgeann, to Cincinnati.  Her young children, Annelise and Hudson, made the jaunt from Lexington, Kentucky, with us. At five and almost three, they are now almost exactly the ages my two older daughters were when Georgeann was born. Strapped in the backseat in their state-of –the –art car carriers, with a movie playing on the DVD player and iPads loaded with games clutched in their hands, the children didn’t make a peep on the seventy-mile trip. Quite a contrast, I thought, to the long car trips of my young motherhood when I had only my imagination to keep the children entertained and separated in their minimally restrained seats.

But the moment we hit the six-lane traffic of I-75 – a stretch of city driving that puts me on edge – Annelise began to screech in a voice edged with panic. “Mr. Bear! Mr. Bear! Mr. Bear! Hudson is grabbing Mr. Bear!”

I turned around to investigate, and sure enough, there was Hudson with a big old grin on his face pulling as hard as he could on Mr. Bear’s head while Annelise held on to his body for dear life. Like a member of the family, Mr. Bear has been her near constant companion since she was an infant. Hudson is never allowed to touch Mr. Bear unless Annelise gives him permission for the occasional cuddle. (This is in no way a deprivation since their household has a few hundred stuffed animals tossed around. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but much of one.)

Déjà vu. Staring at my grandchildren pulling at opposite ends of Mr. Bear’s fragile body, I was transported back to 1977 on this same stretch of Interstate highway. Mother was with me then, sitting in the front passenger seat where I was now, and an infant Georgeann was cradled in her arms in those pre-safety seat days. I was at the wheel navigating unfamiliar urban traffic to pick up my husband at the Greater Cincinnati Airport.

My five-year-old daughter Shan was in the back seat with Bear, whom she never left at home.  A plump half-pillow, half-plaything, he was handmade from a cloth cut-out, a craft notion popular in that era. The girls’ other grandmother had found Bear’s blue front and back body image at a fabric store, then stuffed him into a rotund pillow, and sewn up his exterior edges.

My mother-in-law had made a similar stuffed animal for our middle daughter Becky when she came along, but Becky could not be persuaded that her brown Dog was as fine as Shan’s blue Bear. And so, as I-75 widened from two lanes into many lanes, and the lightening fast traffic converged and diverged from all directions, Becky, a few months shy of her third birthday, grabbed Shan’s Bear by the head.

A frantic tug of war broke out, punctuated with shrieks and sobs. Mother, holding the baby in the front seat, could do little to intervene in the battle. I, of course, couldn’t cross multiple lanes of traffic to pull onto a shoulder if our lives had depended on it.  My admonitions to “JUST STOP IT!” were ignored. (Where was Dr. Spock when you needed him?)

Tension was escalating in both the front and back seats of our car when suddenly the girls, in unison, let out a blood curdling scream. I nearly lunged into an eight-wheeler in an adjacent lane. What had happened? Had one of the back doors swung open despite being locked? Had someone fallen out of the car into the path of the trucks?

Bear’s decapitation is what had happened. His head was in Becky’s hands, his body in Shan’s, and his foam innards were flying all over the car like popcorn on steroids.  Bear had lost his mind –and I was not far behind him.

Then, as both girls sobbed inconsolably in the back seat, Mother began to laugh and laugh until tears ran down her face. “You might as well,” she said.

Mother’s laughter restored both Bear and me to sanity. Within a few days, we had him re-stuffed and his head reattached with heavy thread.  He soldiered on for many more years until his skin completely gave way to ravels and gaping holes. Then, we let him go to that special place in our hearts where we forever hold all of those we have loved.

Last week, my hand darted into the backseat in time to rescue Annelise’s Mr. Bear before his body gave way. But I heard my mother’s voice echo across the decades to remind both Georgeann and me to keep a sense of humor when dealing with the day-to-day challenges of parenting young children. You might as well laugh, she would say.

Certainly, it beats losing one’s head or one’s mind.

Copyright© Georgia Green Stamper

Excerpt from Butter in the Morning. Wind Publications. 2012.

(Available on Amazon.com)

Re-printed with Permission of the Author

For those targeted in the demographic as “mature” readers, there is a wealth of material everywhere you look these days replete with advice about disposing of your belongings, especially older items.

Perusing this advice is not recommended on a dark and dreary day.  Do the closet purging now, so your children don’t have to later, admonishes one so-called expert.  Get rid of everything that doesn’t bring you joy, preaches another.  (That one especially inspires a gag reflex.  Seriously?  My vacuum cleaner doesn’t bring me joy, but some things are just necessary.  And I’m not turning my house into a personal temple to my own rapture.  Spare me.)

And then there are the dire predictions about locating useful destinations for your objects, especially items from bygone days.  The problem is not what to purge, reads one article, but what to do with what you are shedding. No one wants your stuff, one writer declares—especially not your children—and particularly old dishes, glassware, and silver.  Even charities serving the needy may not accept such items, and readers are advised to research this carefully.   What to do?  Facebook marketplace?  eBay, where listings appear to linger for ages?

I suppose it is likely that some of our long-used family belongings could someday end up in such places.

But you’d have to catch them first.  That’s because many of our family pieces have logged more miles than the newly retired with the keys to a sparkling new RV.  As a tribe, we give our own special meaning to the phrase “antiques road show.”

Let’s begin with an old maple rocking chair, with elegantly curved arms, a wonderfully tilted back, and the long, deep rockers that make for a fine, fine rocking interlude.  That chair has at least 400 miles on it.  When wewere dispersing items after my father’s death, the rocker traveled home with me from Kentucky to Tennessee, and after I moved again a few years later to more limited space, it traveled back up the exact same road to a sunlit spot in my sister’s larger house.

These travels are not limited to comfortable furniture.  I recently came into possession of a dozen gleaming silver-plated water goblets, future use as yet undetermined, but gosh, they are eye-poppers.  If I think carefully about history and lineage (a dangerous thing in such situations), I believe mine is the fifth family home in in which they have resided.  It’s

best not to attempt a road mileage total on that one.

My longtime interior design consultant and dear friend once described my home design style as “inherited.”  And while that one got a roar of appreciation when I shared it in the fam, the pattern emerged decades ago for very practical reasons.  It’s not that my house is crammed with items representing some overburdening emotional obligations.  It began as much the opposite: Any furniture from family sources I liked and could use, as a young person starting out, was a piece I didn’t have to pay for.

Still, I freely admit our family treasures may offer some endearing, tangible connections to those who passed them on.  A few years back I was mesmerized by a fascinating book about Te Māori, the first U. S. exhibition of ancient art from the native Māori people of New Zealand. The opening of the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York was preceded by elaborate tribal rituals symbolizing honor for and protection of the ancestral artists, who are believed by the Māori to spiritually inhabit the art they created.

My own treasured artifacts mostly weren’t made by our earlier generations, but I still enjoy thinking about what their spirits, if residing therein, could pass on to us. Could I replicate the hospitality at my own dinner parties that always illuminated my parents’ home by remembering to pull out my mother’s crystal wine glasses? If we keep that old rocker in the family circle, will we someday emulate with our younger members the long conversations I had with my dad when I sat in it, across from his favorite perch in their den, while we chatted?

In our defense, we are at least beginning to think and talk about “re-homing” some of these family items, as the term is currently used in reference to rescue animals, not necessarily a flawed analogy.  As the current trustee of two sets of fine china from two generations back, I was recently struck by the notion that two might be one too many.

I really need to make some more space in my cabinets, I lamented on the phone to my sister, and I don’t really want to start packing things away in storage boxes.  “I know, I’m the same,” she answered with a sigh.  “We aren’t moving anywhere, anytime soon, but I am starting to think about what I can begin to purge from this house, working toward when that time comes.”

There is a particular, unspoken code for these family chess moves, and I was careful to follow it:  I’m probably going to get rid of Mamama’s good china, I continued.  (Mamama being our maternal grandmother.) I just don’t use it or need it.  That is, of course, unless you want it.

Pause for here for a millisecond of dead air in the ether.  “Wait,” she pondered. “Which ones are those?”  Absorbing my description of the old ivory porcelain with the brightly flowered centers, she suddenly leapt the tracks on the strategic execution for starting-to-get-rid-of-stuff.  “Actually, I might take those.”  She had reasons, of course, but they elude memory at the moment, because she had a chess move of her own lurking.  “You might want these ones I have that were Snowy’s (our paternal grandmother).  They’re all-white, and they’re gorgeous.  You’d really like them. As a special bonus offer, I’ll throw in the cushioned, zippered containers I bought to keep them in and protect them from chipping.”

The absurdity of this exchange finally ignited a roar of laughter from both guilty parties, but even that burst of self-knowledge does not appear to be forestalling next steps.  More road show might be coming.  “I’ll send you a photo,” she said, “and if you want them, I’ll bring them when I come down to visit in a couple of weeks.  And I’ll take the others, if they are the ones I am remembering.”

On it goes.  On a recent weekend afternoon, a text from my daughter inquired what I was doing. I confessed to furiously polishing an ornate, silver-plated, Victorian-style tea and coffee set that belonged to a great aunt who died 40 years ago.  Even the hopeless optimist in me knows that charities have no use for such things these days, and a perusal of eBay showed too little value to be worth the trouble of the transaction.

What am I going to do with this thing?  I asked her, rhetorically.  “Maybe use the sugar bowl to store device cords,” she attempted, helpfully.  “And water your plants with the teapot?”

That’s my girl, I thought, a bright flicker of pride warming my heart and emboldening me to push forward another step.  I sent a photo of the silver water goblets, asking, “I don’t suppose you want any of these?  No obligation, no hurt feelings if you don’t.”

And it was the second half of her response that turned the flicker in my heart into a warm, enduring beam of hope for the next generation.  “Sure, I’ll take some.  Now, whose were those, again?”