View Libby Znaimer

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - BY LIBBY ZNAIMER Libby Znaimer ( libby@zoomer.ca) is VP of news on AM740 and Clas­si­cal 96.3 FM (ZoomerMe­dia prop­er­ties).

i’VE AL­WAYS KNOWN there would be no one to take our stuff – the fur­ni­ture, the dishes, the sil­ver – the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of a life­time. Doug and I have no chil­dren, and our niece and nephew live far away. I didn’t think much about it un­til a New York Times ar­ti­cle on the sub­ject went vi­ral. It seems even boomers who are blessed with large fam­i­lies are find­ing that they can’t give it away.

“The boomers are the last gen­er­a­tion to have any kind of guilt about hold­ing onto things that be­longed to their par­ents and grand­par­ents,” says Karen Shinn, co-owner of Down­siz­ing Di­vas, a com­pany that helps se­niors pare down their pos­ses­sions and move. For me, the con­nec­tion didn’t even have to be that close. Take the tale of my Aunt Becky’s Stinkwood chest. We didn’t know her that well be­cause she lived in Africa. But we knew that heavy carved chi­nois­erie trunk was her prized pos­ses­sion. She even­tu­ally moved to Lon­don, and I trav­elled there at the end of her life. Af­ter she died, I du­ti­fully shipped the trunk from Eng­land to Toronto, only to find that the best spot for it was in our un­fin­ished base­ment. When my brother Sam ex­pressed an in­ter­est, I sent it on to Van­cou­ver. That was 1997. It’s prob­a­bly still in his base­ment – he isn’t sure.

I feel very dif­fer­ently about my mother’s dishes and sil­ver­ware. I re­mem­ber be­ing very up­set when she gave me her good sil­ver-plated flat­ware a lit­tle over a year be­fore her death. She was al­ready sick, and I took it as a sign that she was giv­ing up. But it was more like pass­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity and plea­sure of get­ting the fam­ily to­gether for hol­i­days and keep­ing tra­di­tions alive. We use the cut­lery all the time and the dishes on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. They bring back mem­o­ries and help make new ones – it would be great to have some­one to give them to in turn – prefer­ably some­one who would re­mem­ber spend­ing happy evenings with us.

My col­league Bill An­der­son (host of Bill’s Clas­si­cal Juke­box on The New Clas­si­cal FM) says his chil­dren want no part of the an­tiques that have been in his fam­ily for two and three gen­er­a­tions. They don’t even want the prized cran­berry glass­ware that was pop­u­lar in the Vic­to­rian era. “We used to joke that if we lost our jobs we could fall back on the cran­berry,” he told me. “Now we’re find­ing it has al­most no value.” Bill and his wife, Sharon, re­cently moved to a smaller place and they had to purge many of their pos­ses­sions. Not only did Bill’s kids refuse to take his fam­ily trea­sures, so did con­sign­ment shops. Af­ter be­ing turned down by the Scott Mis­sion, Casey House and the Sal­va­tion Army, he was de­lighted when Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity ac­cepted his do­na­tion. “The kids are in their 30s and 40s, and they think our things are stuffy and not cool,” he told me. “They have no sen­ti­men­tal at­tach­ment to it.” They prob­a­bly have no room for it ei­ther. The cost of hous­ing has younger peo­ple liv­ing in smaller spa­ces. That would ex­plain why Mid-Cen­tury Mod­ern seems to be the only his­tor­i­cal style mil­len­ni­als are mad for.

Doug came to our mar­riage with a ver­i­ta­ble trove of that clunky or­nate Vic­to­rian stuff. Over the years, he grad­u­ally let most of it go. But we use a few key pieces, notably a heavy ma­hogany gate-leg din­ing room ta­ble from the 1840s that be­longed to his great great grand­fa­ther. He al­ways treated it more like a frag­ile rel­a­tive than an ob­ject. Shortly be­fore the wed­ding I mis­tak­enly sprayed it with oven cleaner in­stead of fur­ni­ture pol­ish. I was mor­ti­fied! We sent it to re­stor­ers, and they im­proved it but could not get rid of all the dam­age. Doug’s un­der­stand­ing re­ac­tion to my blun­der con­firmed that he was the right guy to marry.

Shinn sees it as a shift in val­ues – a move away from ma­te­ri­al­ism. Her busi­ness is boom­ing be­cause two gen­er­a­tions – boomers and their par­ents – are down­siz­ing and an­other is say­ing they are not that into stuff. “Mil­len­ni­als aren’t so en­am­oured with col­lect­ing things, they’re

“It was pass­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of keep­ing fam­ily tra­di­tions alive”

more in­ter­ested in col­lect­ing ex­pe­ri­ences,” she says.

My brother Moses doesn’t see it that way. “If the chil­dren don’t want it, then the grand­chil­dren will for sure,” he says. That’s why Bill has put some things in stor­age. “At the back of my mind, I’m think­ing some­day they may re­gret not tak­ing these heir­looms.”

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