After my post about needing twenty-four towels for three kids to take to camp, my parents and my in-laws offered me stacks of towels. Curiously, among the stack from my in-laws’ house was a towel with my younger brother’s name on it. I actually remember this towel as one of those my parents sent to camp with my older brother—the very same camp my kids are going to, as a matter of fact. It probably ended up at my in-laws’ house after one of the canoe trips Mr. December and I took with his friends in university. Whatever the reason, my kids will be taking their Uncle G’s towel to camp this summer. I’ve never heard of an heirloom towel, but there’s a first time for everything.
I could actually send someone to camp with a sleeping bag used two generations ago; forget about printed labels, this one has my aunt’s name embroidered into it (by hand, not machine.) I’ve opted not to because sleeping bag technology is way better and the bags pack up much smaller than the old ones, which matters when you’re taking it on a canoe trip.
K had her pick of three sleeping bags. The one she chose had my maiden name on it in Sharpie marker—it’s the one I took on canoe trips and to overnight camp as a counsellor. I didn’t try to cover over my name or black it out, I just wrote hers in under it. Very briefly, I had a vision of K in twenty-five years’ time, writing her child’s name under her own.
My kids view this stuff much less sentimentally than I do. K was in need of a fourth sweatshirt for camp and I offered her one that I stole from Mr. December’s closet in high school (because it smelled like him.) It’s a vintage Roots sweatshirt, the kind that was all the rage in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that Mr. December wore in his teens—it quite possibly went to camp with him. It definitely went to camp with me in my early twenties, because it has my name tag sewn into it. Kali admired it, tried it on… and pronounced it “kind of scratchy.” Any dreams the shirt had of making a camp comeback were crushed.
If nothing else, what I’ve learned from these reflections is that some things actually are made to last. Some people’s family heirlooms are things like an ugly vase that everyone wishes would fall and break, but nobody has the guts to just throw out; our heirlooms are sleeping bags, sweatshirts, and (apparently) towels. I can live with that—I value function over form, after all.