Life at the Museum

Share Now

When we lived in Mississippi, the wife of one of our elders was in the furniture inheritance stage of life, that stage when older relatives don’t need cherished furniture anymore. She was so blessed by inherited pieces that she even passed a bed and a dresser on to a needy young preacher’s family at our church — us. Another church member, who was an antique dealer and refinisher, removed the coat of white paint. This was our bedroom suite for about three decades until Mother had her stroke in 2013. She moved into our room downstairs and we moved into the upstairs room Bethany vacated when she got married, whereupon Ray and I went back to using the white canopy bedroom suite my parents bought me from Sears when I was 14. Ray and I had used that bedroom suite before Bethany started using it when she moved out of the crib at two years old so Mary Evelyn could move into the crib.

I used the word move(d) four times in that paragraph. Ah, even if you stay in one house for fifty years (which we haven’t), one fact of family life is moving!

I recently wrote about my mother’s kitchen table. It is one of the many wonderful items that illustrate Ray’s and my experience with furniture inheritance. In happy and sad ways, Ray and I have been in that stage since before we married. Not only did we move that canopy bedroom suite to our first apartment in Lexington, Kentucky, where Ray was getting his Master’s in history at UK, we also brought my grandparents’ couch which Mother had helped me to recover the summer before.

Then, when Ray’s mother died six months after we married, and his daddy remarried three years later, he sold his house and moved into his new wife’s house. All of Ray’s parents’ furniture, except one bedroom suite and a bookcase, was divided between Ray’s brother’s house and ours.

Yesterday Ray and I made a list of how many relatives once owned furniture that is now in our house: both our sets of parents, two uncles, one great aunt, three sets of grandparents, one set of great-grandparents, and a great-great grandmother. We do not, by any means, have a house full of priceless antiques. What we have instead is a house full of old furniture! You can see why, when we moved into this old house, Ray said to me, “This is where our furniture was always supposed to be.”

Once when my brother and I were talking about dividing up inherited things, he said that I should just take things to my house and he could see them when he came. This is one of the many ways that Ray and I have come to live in the museum. We are both quite comfortable here in the museum, actually, and one of our favorite things is for people to come and visit us here.

A friend was here the other day when I was doing some decorating for Christmas. As I held a snowman and a Santa Claus, made from Styrofoam®, I said that they used to belong to Ray’s mother and daddy. She said, “I never thought about keeping old things.”


I feel pretty sheepish when I get out our Christmas decorations. Since Ray and I have always thought about keeping old things, we have amassed . . . well, a mass! Our house looks quite different from our first Christmas when we set up our tree beside my grandparents’ recovered couch and decorated it with probably less than ten ornaments and a scrap bag of varied ribbon tied together into a garland. This year when I looked at new decorations at a store, my mouth fell open at the price, and they stayed right where they sat or hung. I still hang those original ornaments on the tree and decorate with the mass collected for forty years.

I like our lives at the museum because here I am surrounded by memories of people Ray and I love and have loved. Christmas for us is one more time to enjoy the mass of memories.

Every life is like a museum. From the day of our birth, its rooms start filling up with experiences that become history as soon as they happen. As your children grow up, parents are like a museum director who approves what comes in and a curator who has responsibility for and interprets what comes in. Wise parents filter what comes into that museum, as much as they are able. Even in the times when things come in that they would never have approved if they were in complete control — which none of us really is — parents are the museum interpreters of those things that came in out of our control.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more
in real knowledge and all discernment,
so that you may approve the things that are excellent,
in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
having been filled with the fruit of righteousness
which comes through Jesus Christ,
to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11






Share Now


  1. I can certainly relate to this one! We have many, many pieces of furniture that were originally from relatives. We have always said that our house is “early childhood” decor. 😉 I gaze at a picture on our dining room wall that hung in my aunt and uncle’s house for as long as I could remember. That painting has now hung in 7 more houses! We recently purchased a new couch and chair as our youngest is now 11 and we figured that he is past the jumping on the couch stage (he is, mostly). But he was not happy when we replaced the old set. I suppose though, it is the only couch and chair that he remembers. Each of our 3 sons living at home have a piece of the bedroom set I used as a child, and my husband and I used for many years before finally getting a new set a couple of years ago. I love how these things remind me of our relatives.

  2. It takes discernment to keep the items that nourish your heart. Too often I talk with people who are simply overwhelmed with the quantity of stuff received from other family members. Keep and use those items that make your heart smile. Pass the others on to a thrift store where someone else can benefit without any emotional strings attached!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *