briefly, on forgotten trinkets, family heirlooms

courtesy Grace Helms

This is not what it appears to be.

This framed picture was a Christmas present from my parents, delivered by them during their semi-annual trip down to Mecca from God’s country to visit. The poster, a souvenir map of my family’s native Finland, was expertly restored, matted and framed in Wisconsin and now perfectly adorns a wall in stately Chateau Sirvio Sur.

Though it was a gift from my family, they weren’t the ones who found it.

Last spring, in a rural Missouri town not far from here, my sister-in-law was going through some of the personal effects of her late grandfather, a much-decorated [also, heavily-redacted] career Army man whose vida de guerre spanned from World War II to Vietnam. Amongst the overlooked items in his footlocker was this map, folded and yellowed with age.

Knowing that I would appreciate it, she asked the blessing of her grandmother and aunt if it would be OK for her to give this to us. Wife and I both were pleasantly surprised by it and we showed it to my mother and father when they were here last, who were enamored with it and summarily commandeered it for restoration and framing.

Mom first showed me the final product last night–fittingly, on St. Urho’s Day–and I was stunned. It’s really a remarkable piece (and I hope the picture does it justice): a trinket from a career in war and intelligence which sent a man all over the world for America is now an heirloom for his great-grandchildren and beyond, those who will bear both Suomalainen nimi ja veri, while also being sincerely grateful for the service and sacrifice of their great-grandfather to our country; a man who lived through three hells to tell no tales.

The story of two random families, brought together by love and random circumstance, all foreshadowed in an old veteran’s footlocker. The story of the future, the story of the past.


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