Have you ever assigned sentimental values to objects that commemorate and rekindle old memories? I had never seen a picture of myself as an infant and knew nothing about the first year of my life until I discovered the identity of my foster family. The box of mementos, photographs and relics they gave me thirty-two years later was priceless. Its contents stimulated memories I didn’t even know I had and helped explain the mysterious circumstances of my birth and adoption.
Most of us hope that we will live on in the hearts of others. Our life is a collection of stories that we weave together from what we can recall based on fleeting images and pieces of the past. Mementos are artifacts that stimulate our memories and trigger storytelling; they are one of the best ways of being remembered by those left behind. Most of our memories are a matter of love and the sorrows love brings. The more we love someone the stronger the memory of them becomes because our emotions expand when thinking about the past. There is pleasure in recognizing old things; it is natural to attach a sentimental value to things that connect us to the past. But, for adoptees, the memory of exile, trauma and a sense of loss is an experience of bereavement compounded by the disappearance of family, country, language, culture, time and reference points. The pleasure of remembering is taken from them when there is no longer anyone there to share their memories with. Life is difficult for adoptees and exiles when life’s trajectory has been altered and the past purposefully expunged from the historical record. Their early memories may seem forgotten, but they are often simply filed too deep to be recalled at will, and tend to resurface when least expected. Their recollection of circumstances that have caused suffering and pain motivates them to learn more about the past and drives a yearning to seek sanctuary in a time and place that they once belonged. Life goes by so quickly that we can hardly capture it, but when we do, we cherish the memories and emotions those moments evoke. Photographs capture fleeting moments that are instantly gone forever and impossible to reproduce. They have an enduring value because they remind us of tangible things we can see and touch associated with the event or person that gain special meanings and relevance.
“Mementos” are symbols of a person or experience that has no real significance other than a psychological connection to a past memory that can only be articulated by the owner. A memento is any personal possession that the owner attaches significance to because it has a nostalgic value. “Memorabilia” are valued for a connection to a past event that brings back memories. They are anything kept, or given to be kept, as a token of friendship or affection as a remembrance. They are often stored in display cases to be preserved for posterity. Memorabilia are treasured for its connection to a special event that brings back memories of a bygone era, a person or an event. Trophies, metals, diplomas and autographs recall such events and offer proof of a personal connection to a time, place, person or accomplishment.
“Keepsakes” are gifts that evoke memories of a person or event with which it is associated. They may be considered as reminders, relics, remembrances, emblems, antiques, souvenirs, tokens and prayers. Family bibles, letters, personal artifacts, albums that contain photos, historic documents, and descriptions of persons and significant events make valuable keepsakes because they are sentimental and nostalgic. Baby books that define the story of how a child is welcomed into his or her family makes it easier to tell each child’s unique story. A description of chronological events helps guide them through past happenings by stirring memories and providing a positive sense of self-identity. Life books, locks of hair, metals, badges, pedigrees, musical instruments, paintings, jewelry, relics, handmade items and antiques attached to relatives or someone of importance are popular keepsakes.
“Souvenirs” are remembrances that trigger automatic emotional responses that have a powerful impact on memory. Souvenirs are objects that help us recall a place visited, a special occasion, an event or a person of relevance. Souvenirs associated with weddings, anniversaries, honeymoons, expensive purchases, and vacations often trigger powerful feelings of nostalgia that encourage return visits. An “heirloom” is something, perhaps an antique, jewelry, clock, painting or furniture attached to an inheritance or estate that has been passed down through family members.
A well organized collection of souvenirs, mementos, memorabilia, sentimental keepsakes and family heirlooms preserves the family history, triggers nostalgia, provides clues to self-identity and accomplishes the goal of living on in the hearts of others.
Souvenir, ricordi, cimeli, ricordi sentimentali e cimeli che ricordano gli altri: la nostalgia e compie l’obiettivo di vivere nel cuore degli altri.