Family heirlooms can appear in surprising ways.
On a holiday visit to my aunt's house I had an unexpected guided tour. She had a full curio cabinet of items, many of which I recognized from childhood. There were some individual glassware pieces, an old butter churn, a "wash board" and many other items. I had assumed all of these had been lost in "the fire."
I was so excited to see these things - some had belonged to my long deceased grandparents, some to my great-grandparents. As I heard the stories I could begin to see the images in my mind again... I remember exactly where that butter churn was on my great-grandparents' front porch.
My Great Aunt Josephine had a collection of silver spoons that used to hang on her wall when she was alive. They had no intrinsic monetary value, but there was one from every state where she had traveled. She used to tell us stories about those spoons when we were small.
Where are they now?
I should ask around the family and when I find who has them, take a digital picture, and I can record the story along with it.
My mother has a silver service that I remember from my grandmother's house. I don't yet know its full story -- but I need to ask soon.
The "stuff" in our elders' home has meaning beyond any value that an appraiser might find. When you visit for any occasion, take the time to tune in when those stories get shared.
Better yet, ask the questions and take the time to write them down, these are the true family heirlooms. Yes -- your eyes may have glazed over in the past, but before too long the "tellers of the stories" won't be around to ask any more.
There may come a time when your parents start to pare down their belongings. They may want to know if you want "this" or "that" at a later time. How you handle that conversation can make a great deal of difference.
"No Mom, why would I want that old junk...?" is not going to be a response that will open a door for the future. A much better approach could be either"Gee Mom, let me think about it..." (or "no, Mom, I really don't have room for it either...") AND make sure you add --"but tell me how you got that, and why has it become so important over these years?"
Use these moments to learn more stories.
And you just might gain some family heirlooms to pass on to another generation.