Leena’s China

Posted On December 15, 2023

A family tree of photographs is at the top of the stairs at my father’s house. 


A picture hangs at the top of the stairs at my parent’s house. It’s of my mother’s grandmother, my great grandmother. I think it’s Grandma Leena. My father and I were trying to figure out who it was. My mother had told me about the picture and about Grandma Leena for years. I never listened. There are a bunch of other pictures. At the top, near the ceiling, are pictures of my mother and father’s family and they form a family tree, coming together, picture by picture, generation by generation, to a picture of my father and mother with my brothers and me. It’s nice. It’s my roots. My mother’s family was from the upper peninsula of Michigan. The cities of Ontonagon and Rockland come to mind. Her grandfather’s corner drug store. Another’s cattle farm. Mom wanted me to know about all these people. “You’ll want to know, someday,” she said.

Mom told us that the happiest times of her life were her summer visits to her grandparents when she was girl. She wanted us to know this. She wanted us to carry her summer memories on . Afraid that with her death they’d be gone. And they are. She died a while back.

In a box in my father’s attic is Grandma Leena’s wedding China. It’s carefully wrapped in brown paper. Each piece brittle and delicate. Mom loved it. My father and I looked at the box. “It’s all hand painted,” he said. My mother’s handwriting across the top. Some of the China visible inside. “You want it?” my father asked? “No. I don’t think so,” I said. “But don’t throw it away. Maybe I will someday.” That China just sits in the box. I don’t know the last time the box was opened. A decade, maybe. If I were to take it, I’d put the China in my attic where it may sit for decades more.

Prior to my mother’s death, she shared a lot of stories with us. And when she could no longer talk, she asked us to tell her stories of our memories of her. Our favorite days. Our funny adventures. She wanted to know she wouldn’t be forgotten.

What is it in us that makes us want to be remembered so badly? And why do we hold on to things cherished by our loved ones that mean so little to us? I don’t know.

We were around the Thanksgiving table at my parent’s cabin in the woods a few weeks back. Lots of food. Lots of smiles. It’s a special place. My mother came to   mind. But I wasn’t remembering her. I was feeling her. She was there with me. In me. I don’t know. It sounds so strange to say. It wasn’t a memory.  It was better than a memory. Again, I can’t explain it.

But I suspect it was it was the same way my mother felt when, every now and then, she opened the box, removed the paper, and held a piece of Grandma Leena’s China.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to keep it real.





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