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Family Dynamics

Fighting Over the Inheritance

Sentiment trumps money when it comes to inheritance.

When my mother died, my sister and I went through her belongings, furtive daughters looking for love and connection. My mother had some fine things — art, carpets and china.

But for me, sentimentality trumped monetary value. I took three pairs of worn socks, the plastic clips she used to close bags of bread, a copper pot that she’d bought sixty years earlier for just five dollars. For weeks after my father died, I carried his social security card in my wallet, the object a symbol of his presence.

At a writing retreat in Santa Cruz, I asked participants to bring an object of sentimental value to use as a prompt. One writer pulled a small pair of patent leather shoes from her bag. These were the shoes her murdered daughter had loved and worn as a child. It would have been one thing to leave the shoes in a box or on the top shelf of a closet. But this writer kept the shoes in her underwear drawer, where she could reach in from time to time and feel grounded.

Recently, a friend confessed that when her mother died, she took her housecoat, the duster she’s donned everyday when she came home. It made me recall that my mother wore a smock when she prepared food in the kitchen. We didn’t find those as we scoured the house, but we each ended up taking a dishtowel.

Writing prompt

An object of sentimental value is imbued with meaning, often evoking tender feelings. If you’re looking for a good writing prompt, choose an object that holds meaning for you and let the story unfold.

Copyright © 2014 by Laura Deutsch

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