Privilege Blog

A Magpie Sendoff, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:21am

This morning my siblings and I will engage in the singular High WASP ritual: “The Final Disposition Of Silver And Jewelry When Your Mother Has Died.” I am prepared for disquisitions on monogrammed bread trays and the virtues of rose cut diamonds.

At least, I am prepared to imagine such. For in truth, 11 1/2 years after I began to write this blog, the Carnochan siblings have moved on. The locus of our identity, and I suppose I should say mine, since it was really me holding on to it all, as eldest children will, has shifted. Picked up lacy underskirts and faille overskirts and run off to fight today’s battles carrying the Union sword that had hung on the wall.

My middle sister analyzes and supports social service organizations. My brother heals psyches and helps people navigate conflict. My youngest sister seeks to educate children compassionately and intelligently. I poke around a garden, tend to loved ones, volunteer, and write missives to you. We all, still, honor my father, the Highest of the High WASPs, for the dear man he has become. But what shines in the family is no longer hard. Metal, stone.

What I mean to say is that I have been lucky to learn. I do not think I would have this perspective on my upbringing and culture, this concomitant distance and affection, had you all not listened to me here. Thank you.

Have a wonderful weekend.

19 Responses

  1. Ah, the divvying-up of the spoils! Fun to watch or read about, but can be grim in reality. All went pretty easily in both my husband’s High Wasp New England family (with his two sisters) and my own well-traveled military one (with my three brothers). In both cases, there were grandchildren to consider, who viewed certain items as being redolent of their grandparents, and thus highly desirable. Luckily, they all had different memories and thus different attachments.

    So beloved remnants of Dover (Massachusetts) and Austin (Texas) live on in quite different places and environments. And bring a smile to my heart when I see my own grandchildren enjoying them!

    My advice? Don’t be too quick to let go of the bread tray or the diamond, whatever your present reality…

  2. May I make a small suggestion? My sisters and I first drew numbers to set up an order for choosing items. We agreed that certain things would stay together as a set, like each china set, or the sterling silver. Then we took turns choosing items. We each got items we wanted, and we all felt that the process had been fair. The rest went to charity.

  3. Very nicely put, and I hope you all have a conflict-free divvying-up. And that you get some mementos that you will treasure.

  4. Ahhh! I hope it all goes smoothly. Perhaps your own children would treasure something to remind them of their grandmother.

    Bon week-end!

  5. I’ve been giving my stash of silver and jewelry that I don’t wear out as wedding and baby gifts. Baby Olivia is going to look great in those aquamarine gold danglers in 20 years . If her Mom borrows them until then it’s ok with me.

  6. Its funny, with the pandemic, wearing jewelry is something I rarely do anymore. My wedding ring and maybe earrings if we’re leaving the house. My mother’s things sit in a drawer these days. It has been suggested by those who favor minimalism that taking a picture of sentimental treasures can be enough.

    I love that you and your siblings are more interested in doing things than having them.

    Happy weekend!

  7. My sisters and I did the same as MJ and drew numbers. Then went round and round in that order. It worked out well.

  8. At a previous location, I watched the police show up at the house across the street because one brother got to dad’s tool shed before the other one did and apparently the sister called the police just before the brothers started swinging. I really hope your day goes well and does not give the neighbors something entertaining to watch. :)

  9. To MaryAnn – YES! For the past 32 years I have conducted estate sales. I have learned much, seen much and accepted much. Suffice to say it is better to do things than to have things. The sooner one realizes this the sooner one can begin being present – in the short, wild experience that is life.

  10. A lovely morning, full of connection and consideration. She is proud of us, as she always was. ❤

    1. @The Youngest, So pleased to see this. Ours was like this too, seven years ago, much less of earthly value to divvy up, but sweet in my memory for stories generated by various meaningful items. hugs to you, Lisa, from one Eldest to Another and my best wishes to all your family (The Youngest in ours has arranged a Thanksgiving Zoom call to connect our huge tribe) xoxo

  11. I’, too, had to do this for my parents and later an uncle that never married. The act of dispersing family belongings signals the end of an era. I was advised to list all items, provide the list to siblings and call a meeting. Review the list with the siblings and note the name of the individual(s) stating interest in each item. When more than one individual wanted one item, those individuals negotiated and swapped items back and forth. In the end, each person got what was most important to them. This worked well for us.

  12. I think you have learned, and grown, through your own writing. Maybe all of our interest and delight in reading has spurred you on, but it has been a journal of growth.

  13. Being of the WASP persuasion, I found the final division of our family possessions to be really affirming. We have different tastes, none of us all coveted the same things. We allowed the next generation, still forming households, the first choices. There were no hurt feelings. There were many photographs and papers of historic interest, and those were donated to the local university where our great grandfather had been the first trustee, and to a couple of museums.

    My winter project this year is to attach notes to the backs of things in my own home: this chest was made by my 6th great grandfather who etc, etc,. Or: ” get this appraised before donating”. Hopefully that will make it easier for my own daughters.

  14. I love the story your mom told of devising her own mother’s things with her brother and sister. As I remember it, Nancy had first pick. She picked up the small silver bell her mother had used to request attention from the kitchen. “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be!” said the siblings.
    I love the things I have that evoke good memories, and that may be treasured by my children for the same reason. It’s the memories that are precious.

  15. I hope i was a lovely morning, filled with fond reminiscences and little grief. I watched my parents generation squabble over things. I watched the same in my late husband’s family. In both cases there were wounds that festered for years. Somehow I cannot imagine you allowing such a thing to happen.

    As the eldest in my own family, I tend to think that there is no thing I want more than the happiness of my siblings. I have seen you grow through your writing, and I have grown with you, through reading your words. That is a gift you have already given,

  16. Your high wasp posts were what first drew me to your blog. I miss those posts! Meanwhile, we now own about five sets of sterling silver as no other family members wanted them. I’m hoping our older grandson will love it.

  17. I hope it was a moment filled with love, memories, and, if required, some light bargaining.
    In a family where my grandmother, my mother, and my sister prefer gold whereas I only wear silver, white, and rose gold, I’m the easy one. Out of all my grandmother’s jewelry I only have her tiny diamond studs. I mostly wear them when I travel. I figure I can sell them if I get in trouble. ;)

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