Lessons from The Repair Shop
In the spring of 2020, when the world seemed to be falling apart and I craved an escape, one of my daughters told me to watch The Repair Shop, a BBC show which documents the restoration of family heirlooms.
Have you ever seen it? It’s filmed in an idyllic workshop at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in the English countryside. People bring in all sorts of objects: lamps and paintings, butter churns and jewelry, driving gloves and toy monkeys. They tell the story of whatever it is that’s fallen into disrepair, and a team of skilled artisans brings it back to life. It’s soothing—and satisfying—to watch worn and dilapidated old objects be lovingly mended and preserved by experts.
As I watched episode after episode, over and over I heard a variation of the same words.
“It was my granny’s.”
“My granddad had it in his study.”
“It was always sitting in my grandmother’s front room.”
“I loved playing with it when I was at my grandparents.”
This revelation was always followed by,
“It brings back such memories.”
No matter what item the show guests brought in, it wasn't the object that they wanted preserved, it was the memories.
Family heirlooms are powerful ways to connect to memories, but it’s the memories that hold the value. When the customers of The Repair Shop entrust the show with their precious hand-me-downs, it’s in the hope that by restoring the object, the memories will be strengthened and extended. They want the stories about the lucky purse or the riding crop to endure. They want the bonds that are symbolized by the antique clock to be extended to the next generation. They want to honor their family by preserving the legacy of that special heirloom.
When my maternal grandparents had both passed away, my mother asked if there was anything of theirs that I wanted. I had only one request: their green leather card table. Not because it was beautiful (it was) and not because it was my favorite color (it was), but because it was a symbol of who they were to me. Playing cards was something we did together when I was a child, and though I never sat at that green table with them, I knew they played cards at it every evening at home. I knew that I would think of them every time I saw it, and that I’d tell my children and grandchildren about them and why the table was important to me.
And I have.
Make sure you are sharing the stories about the things in your home that are important to you. They are the memories that will be attached to those things, and there’s no better way to build on your family legacy.
What memories are you preserving through family heirlooms? How will you pass them on to your grandchildren? Please share in the comments!