My brothers and I went through the bittersweet task of going through my mother’s condo last weekend. We all collected a few mementos from her house. A TV here, a table there. I grabbed a box of our old G.I. Joe action figures.
I asked for, and got permission from my brothers to take my mom’s horse skull. We aren’t sure where she acquired it. Possibly from her previous husband, the science professor. Or she may have found it by an old desert road. But this semi-toothless, scary thing followed my mom around for decades. Usually kept in basements or garages. There was a family rumor that one of our kittens crawled into its skull to dine on its old rotten brain.
The thing always represented my mom to me. A little scary. A little confusing. Beautiful in its own way. It is as close to an heirloom as our family has. I wanted to have it, to pass down to my boys. We don’t have land. We don’t have Tiffany diamonds. But we have an old horse skull.
I put it into the back of the car and thought of a little speech for the boys. Not to be scared by it. Not to be freaked out by it. But to embrace this little bit of weirdness as an heirloom. What’s an heirloom? Oh, it’s a thing you pass down from mom to son and from dad to son. This skull will be yours some day, boys.
We drove back to Connie’s house, where the boys were screaming with their four other cousins. Connie was counting down the minutes to when it was socially acceptable to have a drink.
I took Luca outside and said, “I have something special to show you.”
I lifted him into the car and pointed to the horse skull. Luca immediately latched onto the box of old G.I. Joe toys.
“What’s this, Daddy?”
“It’s old army guys. But this is a horse skull.”
“Ooh. Army guys. Can I play with them?”
“Well, let’s talk about this skull for a second.”
Luca ignored the skull and started digging into the box. He examined every plastic battle ready Cold War hero like it was gold.
I sat down next to him and said, “This box of army guys is called an heirloom. An heirloom is a…”