Isn’t it a wonder to think of how we cherish family heirlooms. Its never the trinket itself that makes grandma’s china or great-great grandpa’s watch priceless in a family, but the memories it represents. The thought that our loved one held that watch in his hand everyday or fed most of our relatives on those very plates gives us a feeling of closeness and fond memories.
In my family, that heirloom is my grandmother’s jade plant! It is a living and “breathing” reminder of her love for growing things and the way she took care of us. It is also a benchmark for our family. It has lived in numerous houses and made countless transitions, yet it survives. It’s a plant, I know you are thinking “why is she getting all philosophical over a stinking plant?” Well, its more than 30 years old to start and my grandmother passed away almost 20 years ago! But perhaps the most miraculous part about this family heirloom is that it is still living and God is in control of its life and growth, just the way He is in control of ours! It is a visible reminder that life and love endure and that the life that my grandmother cared for, watered and enjoyed still flourishes today!
We have countless stories in my family regarding this plant. The most famed involving my younger sister and her imaginary friend, “Johnny”, who enjoyed pinching the thick leaves of the young jade plant. When scolded by my grandmother for squishing the jade leaves and making them fall to the ground, my sister was always happy to blame “Johnny” for this atrocity….that is until the day my grandmother pointed her long index finger at him and told him that she better not find that he had pinched her jade again and further, he was no longer welcome in her home; he needed to leave and not return if he could not behave himself. Johnny never returned and the image of my grandmother arguing with thin-air is forever etched into my memory.
When I was 11 or 12 years old, my grandmother had passed away several years before, and my grandfather worked out of town for several months at a time. I was given the responsibility to go to his house once a week and water the jade and other plants. I enjoyed this, my first “big girl” chore. I could walk up the road to my grandparents’ house by myself, take the key they had made for me, and was in charge of keeping the jade alive while my grandpa was away! In those trips I would sit in my grandmother’s bedroom where the jade sat in the window and indulge in the memories I made with her there. I could hear her talking to me about caring for plants and of course how to keep pestering imaginary friends far away!
About 12 years ago, as the winter doldrums came to an end and the warmth of spring filled our home THE JADE BLOOMED! We had no idea it could even do that! In more than twenty years it had never bloomed and it only lasted for that short season and has not since! It was a blessing! We reminisced about my grandmother and marveled at how she would have loved to have seen such a sight! We documented the momentous occasion with photographs and constant attention to our little blessing!
Today, the jade flourishes in my mother’s home in front of the french doors leading to her deck. I think about how the jade has grown since she moved it to North Carolina 8 years ago (Mom developed my grandmother’s green thumb), and how my grandmother would have loved the view onto mom’s back deck as well!
So, here’s to family heirlooms! May the memories they provide continue to grow in our hearts and minds just like my grandmother’s jade!