A Jewelry Box, a Brother's Love, a Revelation

I met Ginny Minniger several years ago at a Chattanooga Writers Guild event. As we chatted that night, she remarked, "I don't write much." Later that evening, I had the pleasure of hearing her read some of her writing. My mouth fell open. I commented, "You don't write much? Wow. You should."

Ginny Minniger's keepsake story won second place in the most recent keepsake story contest. She wrote about a small jewelry box.

Ginny Minniger's keepsake story won second place in the most recent keepsake story contest. She wrote about a small jewelry box.

She entered "Love is Given" in my contest. I loved it when I read it, and the judges did, too. One of the judges said, "Several passages appealed to me, but I really like the ending thought of this one: 'It has represented what I knew to be true—love is a given in families. When I open one of the little drawers to retrieve a ring or small trinket, it’s like opening a secret panel to my heart.'"

Another judge praised Ginny's honesty. "Not all families are like the perfect families depicted in Norman Rockwell's paintings, soap operas, or Hallmark movies," one of the male judges said. "Love is demonstrated in more than words and hugs and perfect Christmases and birthdays. Some families don't know how to show love, but most of the time, it is there."

Ginny's story ranked second among the keepsake stories in the contest, and I mailed her a writer's journal earlier this week. I hope it will inspire her to write more. Here's her story.

We weren’t a warm and loving family, the five of us who shared space under one roof. The baggage my parents brought to their relationship overshadowed the potential for that.

I was the middle child with a brother five years older and a sister five years younger. Melding us as siblings would have taken skills my mother just didn’t have to give. She was still working through her own traumatic childhood when she assumed the roll of raising children. At times, I felt more like the adult than the dependent.

Interaction was limited. There were no family game nights, no good-natured teasing, no excited anticipation of Christmas morning. My mother was a realist. If there were gifts under the tree she wanted us to know that she was responsible for getting them there—not some strange man in a red suit who let himself into our house while we all slept.

As providers, my parents did their best to clothe and feed us. The population of our small, Mid-western town was mostly middle class. We may have been poor, but most of our neighbors lived similarly. There was no obvious keeping up with the Jones’ in Griffith, Indiana. It was only in adulthood that I realized how much stress must have been put upon Mom and Dad to stretch the modest income their small business generated.

Although I had observed behavior in my friend’s families that was different from ours and found myself envious of the hugs and encouragement they shared, I trusted that my parents and siblings loved me. We were a family! Love is a given in families, I reasoned. Still I longed to have tangible proof of that love.

My brother’s Senior Class Trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City, would provide that proof for me.

How exciting it was to observe him preparing and packing for the trip! We’d never taken a family vacation. My travel experience was limited to spending a week each summer with my grandmother who lived less than 20 miles away in a tiny retirement cottage. The train to D. C. was going to return him home in a week. I couldn’t wait to see him and pry from him every detail of the experience.

When he returned and unzipped his satchel to unpack, I was totally unprepared to receive a gift. He’d carefully selected and spent his hard-earned vacation money on a remembrance of his adventure for each of us. I was over-the-top thrilled to open the tiny, wooden jewelry box he’d chosen for me.

“He does love me!” I celebrated silently.

My keepsake from Jim still claims a place in plain sight on my dresser. For more than seven decades, it’s black lacquer finish a little cracked and chipped, it has represented what I knew to be true—love is a given in families. When I open one of the little drawers to retrieve a ring or small trinket, it’s like opening a secret panel to my heart.

We weren’t a warm and loving family, the five of us who shared a house. Still, once in awhile something spilled through the cracks that revealed deep caring and that something became a treasure.
— Ginny Minniger, 2014
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To read other stories about keepsakes and the memories they hold, please purchase a copy of Project Keepsake. It's on sale now with no shipping and handling charges. And by the way, it's a great Christmas gift for a loved one, especially when paired with a keepsake.

And as always, I know you have a keepsake. Please share your keepsake story with me. Everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell.