README: Some Hand Me Downs for You
We don't wanna leave you nothing
Why should all your life lessons come from TikTok or Insta? Your mother and I have plenty to share. For example, recently at dinner I shared invaluable tips on how best to approach a non-fiction book. Wait!!! I know you learn all you need to know on YouTube, TikTok, Reels, or <insert latest cool app>. I get it. Why would you even approach a massive, lifeless, resource like a non-fiction work if you think you have to read every word?
I can't remember precisely why I launched into my lecture but it was completely warranted and relevant and wasn’t at all a tangent or preachy. Everyone enjoyed my contribution and wanted an encore. As proof, when I finished, your mother said, “Those are great tips!” She hadn’t picked up her phone or lost interest during my 2+ minute speech. M was riveted and had completely forgotten about the broccoli sitting on his plate. Thus, this blog was born.
What is a hand me down?
I realized there were plenty of tips or life hacks I wanted to share with you but had failed to do so while you were captive children. Being typical try-hard parents, we made sure to teach you the required stuff like reading, tying your shoes, and the importance of wearing underwear. But there are plenty more tips, tricks, life hacks we can pass on.
After drinking a lot of coffee, playing a few games of LoL and Fortnite, and very careful consideration, I identified two categories of hand-me-downs: gifts and surprises. Gifts include a wide range of treasures you may keep and pass down to your own kids. They can be physical or usable things, like a beloved book, or intangible but definable–like lessons on how to hide impostor syndrome–at work and at home.
Surprises are mostly unexpected discoveries you’ll uncover years from now. You won’t even know you got it and won’t have a clue where it came from. Kind of like that exotic keychain in the treasure drawer. You’re welcome very much.
Gifts, AKA Heirlooms
We don’t have ancient jewelry handed down from a Korean princess or German duke to leave you. On the Reeves side of your family, the devastation of a highly dynamic, mobile 20th century pretty much ravaged most worldly possessions that my parents had. Also, as an old friend recently discovered, I haven’t been good at keeping and protecting memorabilia like years of hand-written letter exchanges between friends. (Said friend has every handwritten letter I ever sent him after returning from our student exchange year in Kenya). Sigh.
There are a few exceptions. Aunt Beth and Grandma Betty saved a few things from my childhood that I will share with you: the Christmas stocking in which I was bundled for the ride home from the hospital a few days after I was born. There’s also an infant-sized jacket that I always thought bore the logo of my family’s beloved Chicago Cubs. The Chicago Cubs are a baseball team. Baseball is a sport. Look it up on Wikipedia. The jacket unfortunately is not official Cubs merch. We probably got it at K-Mart. K-Mart is a defunct department store. In retrospect, I may have missed important topics like US History in your cultural education.
In short, you may inherit a few useless tidbits that you’ll feel obligated to lug around for a few moves. It’s far more likely I’ll share guidance and lifehacks that I’ve found so useful I think you want to include them in your own personal guide on thriving in this world.
Start your own list of hand me downs you want to share with your offspring now and work backwards.
Think about what you want to leave your loved one in a hundred years when you move on to the next big challenge and begin building the resources, skills, character needed so you can hand them down.
Surprises or Unintentional Baggage?
Some hand-me-downs are completely unintentional. One time at the Tampa airport, my mom and my sister were watching me at the ticketing counter talking to an agent. They were seated and could look, objectively, at me from afar. My sister turned to my mom and said, “The way he’s standing. Who does that look like? ”
My mom immediately said, “Your father!”
Before this incident if you had asked me how much I was like my father I would have said not at all. The differences were obvious. I went to college. He didn’t. He didn’t even finish high school. He was a smoker and an alcoholic. I don’t smoke and stopped drinking years ago. We are completely unalike. Aren’t we?
Over the years I’ve come to realize how alike we are. Were? (Do you ever really bury a parent?) He loved his family and was a passionate, impulsive person. Sound like anyone you know? He had a great work ethic and was good at his job. But he frequently left jobs because he disagreed with his boss. He was irrationally proud and stubborn. Because he was affable, charismatic, and skilled he generally landed on his feet. Outwardly, he appeared indefatigable. It is only from the personal wreckage he left behind that I now understand just how much he struggled.
Through reflection, introspection, and some gaming, I learned just how much he and I were alike. I had inherited far more from my father than I ever realized. Surprise.
Sooner or later, you may lose the heirlooms that we pass on. Don’t lose sleep when you do. Here’s a fun family story about such loss and how I handled it like a champ. Let it be a model for your own selves when this inevitably happens to you.
Sometime after my grandpa Louie passed, Beth and I helped my mom go through his belongings. I found an old, well worn pair of his white cotton long johns. During a rough patch my mom, Louie, Beth and I had to live with them in their 3-bedroom house. On winter mornings, Grandpa waltzed around the kitchen wearing those long johsn while holding a cup of coffee and crooning “Ba ba ba boom….” a la Bing Crosby. I kept a pair of long john bottoms and one of his Swiss Army knives. He was a tools guy and always had a knife in his pocket to tighten screws or build a birdhouse.
In college, I wore those long johns when I delivered Domino’s pizzas on cold winter nights. They kept me warm. I protected them for years after they became unwearable. I stored them in a super safe place, my underwear drawer, with my passport and other small treasures.
And one day they were gone. POOF
I won't name who threw away this heirloom because she thought it was garbage. She didn’t know it was the last physical thing that I had from my mother’s father and that even though they were tattered, they still connected me, firmly, to the only grandpa I ever loved. (My other grandpa didn’t have hands, he had claws. He didn’t tickle. He tortured. I have the mental scars to prove it.)
When I discovered them missing and learned what happened, I was angry. And disappointed. How could she??? She must’ve thrown them away on purpose! So I confronted her. She was mortified. She had no idea. I had never told her what they meant to me. She thought she was helping.
It was a well intentioned mistake. Your mother was taking care of me. Oops. And that Swiss Army knife? I lost it almost immediately traveling in Kenya. DOH! Time and the daily grind of everyday life devours physical things. Only diamonds and pyramids persist. I'm hoping some of these hand-me-downs are diamond-like and durable.
The Best Hand Me Downs
I hope you come to the same conclusion as I have: the best heirlooms are memories, intentional and other, of our time together as a family. The most valuable things in life you can’t hide in a box. You hold them in your heart–every beat a remembered, shared experience reminding you of a time and place where you were completely, unquestioningly, and unwaveringly loved.
Hopefully you’ll find some hand-me-downs endearing, and maybe even useful. In the midst of youth, surrounded by friends, opportunity, and a bright future, they may seem small and inconsequential. I assure you, they benefit from another form of compound interest–(nostalgia * increasing scarcity). Over time, their value will grow.
References for future generations and aliens
Chicago Cubs is/were a baseball team. They were loved by their fans.
K-Mart was an earlier version of Target. Some genius in Marketing, presumably, invented the “Blue Light Special” which is seared into my memory.
Images created by Starry AI for funsies:
“In The Center Of The Picture, A Large Old Book Covered In Cobwebs On A Wood Table In A Dark Study”
“A Faerie Reading A Large Open Book On A Forest Of Mushrooms With A Spaceship In The Sky”
Thanks for reading Some Hand Me Downs! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.