Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.
Genes. Lots and lots of lovely genes. At least I assume they qualify. Not as if the stork or the cabbage patch contributed much. Most obvious is my maternal grandmother’s ox-like constitution. She lived to 92, and until she broke her hip (which was what finally carried her off), insisted on scrubbing and white-washing the back step before the cleaner came. Shame I didn’t inherit her domestic pride as well as her constitution – but then I didn’t inherit her attachment to loo paper with the consistency of greaseproof, either, so I’m not really complaining.
As the youngest, I copped a lot of hand-me-downs. Most memorable was the Douglas Tartan Skirt. In a moment of aberration, my mother dressed all three of us in Douglas Tartan – it was just after WWII, so maybe the shortage of fabric explains it. Anyway, the result was inevitable. By the time I’d qualified for my eldest sister’s skirt, I’d spent so much of my life in Douglas Tartan, it’s surprising the head of the clan didn’t turn up claiming me as one of theirs.
These days, I also own my maternal grandfather’s roll-top desk, my paternal grandmother’s kitchen stool and glass-fronted cabinet (both made for her by my cabinet-maker uncle), my maternal grandmother’s rocking chair, and my mother’s recipe books. (Anything belonging to my mother-in-law has been removed, and the house cleansed by shamanic smudging.)
But I’ve also inherited my parents ethics and standards of morality (right v wrong), and to me, this is more important than any tangible ‘stuff’ that might have been handed down. Obviously I’ve questioned them over the years – I also inherited their insistence on independent thought. I’ve also kicked against them – who doesn’t want to take the easy way out from time to time? But the older I get, the more I see them to be good. Honesty, integrity, personal responsibility, care and consideration for others, and humility in its true sense – an acceptance of human equality, the opposite of arrogance. A lot of these standards are decidedly out of fashion: lying, cheating, bludging, greed, selfishness – all far more popular, and all very tempting. But the way I see it, if I and my children and their children keep handing on my parents’ standards, there’s a chance that one day, they’ll come into their own again.