Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Silver Lining

I love social histories - the stories of every day people. They are so much more interesting than political histories - richer, funnier, just more personal. The best thing is that our own families are usually full of these great little nuggets of history, it's just the challenge of getting people to talk about them. No one ever thinks that their experiences are that special, so they tend to not pass them along. It's those of us who come a generation or two later who see how cool that experience really was.

Yesterday I was given the gift of one little nugget of history. In the mail I received a heavy little package from my father's wife, Barb. My father passed away a year ago and Barb has been making her way through his things, passing them along as she knew he would want. It's not an enviable job as my dad could be a souvenir pack rat. This package revealed a small but heavy 10 oz bar of silver. As the story goes:

My grandparents purchased silver futures as an investment. Shortly after the option expired and they did not renew it, a Brinks truck pulled into the yard and delivered their silver! It came from the mint in the form of bars. Lots of bars according to the story.

The biggest headache of the transaction was what to do with all that silver. Where could they hide it? Should they sell it? Why hadn't they just paid better attention to the notices and renewed their futures?

Over the years, lots of things were discussed, lamented and laughed over the dilemma created by their investment adventure. Somehow the silver ended up in a basement storage freezer end to end under frozen fruit cups and pork chops. Of course no one knew this is where the silver went except my grandparents. I remember my parents helping my grandparents move and my mom asking why that freezer weighed so much. Grandpa said it was just a really good freezer! Now we know, it was full of silver in the bottom!

When grandma passed away a few years ago, the silver was distributed to her children. I never knew about any of this until my little package arrived. There's so much about this story that makes me laugh. My grandparents lived through the depression, of course they didn't think to put that silver in the bank - banks weren't safe. I now know why Grandma was worried about our going into the freezer too much when we visited.

My little silver bar is probably worth about $400. But I won't sell it. It's a reminder of where I came from. My grandparents desire to make more for their children than they had. Their sense of humor that my sisters and I inherited. The reminder that the value of life is based on much more than money - it's the quality of time you spend with your family and friends.

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