Things that belonged to my parents

betty ming liu Relationships 11 Comments

Writing so much about my parents on this blog has led to a very nice surprise. While they annoyed terrorized me for so many of my younger years, I can now think of them with great fondess. Dare I say it? Yeah. I can: All is forgiven.

Putting up posts about them has been healing because they were opportunities to articulate and vent. Somehow, seeing the words here both validated my emotions — and then, helped me let them go.

Move on, baby! Get on with my own life!

For ages, I couldn’t stand to have their photos around.  These days, I am partial to shots from their early married years. In these pictures, their expressions are still soft with the possibility of making their relationship work. They don’t seem aware yet of their dysfunction; hey, maybe that’s another way to describe “hope.” Haha.

It’s also reassuring to keep around a few of their favorite belongings. Very special to touch these familiar objects that were once in my parents’ warm hands. They hang on the wall above my bedroom desk. On the bottom left is Dad’s abacus.

I can still remember him using it in his Chinatown bookkeeping office. For the longest time, he preferred the smooth dark beads for counting money but he eventually gave in and bought a calculator.

Right next to this old-fashioned numbers crunching gadget hangs a padded, velvet-covered board that I made for my collection of pins and brooches. Most of them were salvaged from my Mom’s jewelry box.

Almost all the pins in this next shot were hers. But the “Mother” pin is mine.

The sparkly strawberry pin below was her favorite; just looking at it brings Mom to life (but only in a good way!).  The bottom row includes pins I had as a little girl.

I can understand not using the abacus. But for whatever reason, I never, ever wear pins. Not sure why.  Still, I enjoy having them around. And the ability to think of my folks with affection is such a magnificent form of freedom.


Comments 11

  1. Check it out but I think the abacus is upside down. My father also used one when he had his laundry store on Ludlow Street. Now that street is so gentrified that it’s probably a boutique, small restaurant/bar.

  2. I love this article on family things. There is a saying ‘you don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been’ Having family items around helps to keep me anchored.

    I wear brooches and they actually have made a comeback since Madeleine Albright (sec of state under Clinton) wore ‘power brooches’. She put a brooch on to match the task of the day. Several magazine articles were written about them and recently a museum exhibition of her brooches was held in NYC.

    I bought a great crystal brooch at CVS after Christmas for 50cents that I wear all the time and get so many compliments on.

  3. I have a vast collection of pins and brooches because I use to wear them when I worked. Now I just have them pinned to place mats and stored in a box. I buy them still whenever I am in a thrift store and just add to my collection. There appeared to be a sort of comeback when Michelle Obama first came in but those were big brooches and mass produced. Most of the interesting ones are one of a kind or smaller in size and well made. They are like miniature pieces of art to me. I’m always excited to find a new and different pin even if I no longer wear them.

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    Charlotte, I love looking at my pretty sparkly brooches. Bet they look good on your granny. Even if they did make a comeback, don’t know if I’d be comfortable.

    Frequent reader, I gave ZERO thought to the direction of the abacus! But of course you’re right. They are used in a very specific way. Thanks for the insight. One of these days, I’ll turn mine around.

    ChapstickMom, a 50-cent brooch! Now that’s what I call real style. :)

    Sandy, I love displaying my brooches. Have you ever thought of doing that? As a visual collective, I’ll be they’d be beautiful showcased somewhere in your home.

  5. I also have an abacus from a departed family member: my grandfather. I picked it out amongst his possessions when I was 12 years old because I liked that it was something he touched everyday, and now it’s here in New York, a city he had never visited in life. It’s so touching to see someone else have the same idea!

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  7. As a kid I had the same mouse pin that’s on your bottom row. Never would have remembered it without seeing this. But mine had a pink body. I’ve been given some great pins (not the mouse, sorry) and they only feel right on jacket lapels. But I don’t have many of those either.
    What’s the story on the cat in need of a litter box?

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    That mouse pin is a ’60s/’70s classic! I’ll bet it was cute in pink — very girlie-girl. As for the cat pin, do you mean the white one? I don’t think it’s in need of a litter box. It might be dancing or something. It was something I actually bought for my mom at a crafts fair because at the time, we had a white cat. :)

  9. Betty,
    I guess if I were to inherit a calculating device from my father it would be the slide rule. My dad had a nice K&E slide rule he used as an engineer at Hercules (now Aliant). I wonder if he has it. It would be something to tell the future generations “see this funny stick? Tis is what my father used to put a man on the moon.”

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