If you are like me, there is a special place in your heart for sports memorabilia. Hearing the stories of prized possessions, whether handed down from generations or picked up from a Championship parade this past year, has always captivated my attention. This has come to mind this week as I sat in meetings with clients in one of our conference rooms and saw the looks of confusion on people’s faces as they came into the room.
Entering the room from the office lobby allows one to see photographs of great moments and players from Chicago Bears history. Gale Sayers is on the wall, as well as Devin Hester’s opening kickoff touchdown return from Super Bowl XLI. Looking above that, one will find a Chicago Bears wallpaper banner. When the attention focuses to the right side of the room, that is when the looks of both heartfelt nostalgia and utter confusion begin to set in.
See, there is something maybe a bit unsettling to some in that room. Against the far wall, there is a beautiful display case, rumored to have once lived in an old-time drugstore. The case is full of football history, everything from photos to signed footballs, gameday programs of eras gone by to tapes of some of the greatest games. But wait. The other half of the case? Filled top to bottom with the same kinds of items. Except for some reason they are green and yellow, not blue and orange. Oh no…
Oh yes. The other half of the cabinet, and the other side of the conference room? Completely decked out in Green Bay Packers propaganda.
Admittedly, there are some very cool treasures in the Packers half of the case: Super Bowl Champion action figures, Lambeau Field merchandise and memorabilia, and only about 750 pictures of Vince Lombardi. As I said, neat stuff, but a constant reminder of the state of mediocrity the team from Chicago currently lives in. But I digress.
A few weeks ago, a client of ours came in and decided to bring in a few items from the Soldier Field renovation to donate to our collection. He had worked on the renovation and had extra mementos from the project that he felt would be a nice addition to our cabinet. We could not have been more thrilled!
After describing and showing the items to other attorneys on our floor, I was sure we had some great pieces to add to the conference room. The recently-donated items were not extravagant per se, nor were they things that would go for thousands of dollars at auction. However, the joy on the faces of those of us lucky enough to see our collection, from big to small and old to new, made me start to think about my own possessions.
There is nothing that provides me with the same brand of excitement like a sporting event giveaway day. The amount of bobbleheads, replica items, hats, t-shirts, bats, trading cards, and pins that are in my collection are a lifetime of remembrances.
This is something my fiancée fails to understand (sorry dear). “Will you ever wear that hat again?” she has asked on more than one occasion. “Yes!” I defend, fully knowing this cheaply-made hat with a crooked team logo and a corporate sponsorship plastered all over it will sit untouched in our closet for the next 2-72 years. My father has a similar collection of these kinds of goodies, and my mother raises the same concerns as my fiancée. My dad usually has a better defense than my childish “yes,” and he always has the same reply: “I’m saving it for the grandkids.” Now that’s a good line.
(Disclaimer for those of you wondering: Current number of grandchildren currently sits at zero.)
But with each new addition comes another thought of a future grandchild who might absolutely love the mascot bobblehead he or she receives from future Grandpa. I mean, the grandkids might toss it in the trash too, but that can be the subject of a different post.
So, what are the most important things to “save for the grandkids”? I asked my father this question right before writing this post and was happy to get the exact answer I was looking for. He simply said, “Whatever they will cherish the most.”
As an attorney, my first instinct was to challenge this statement! How is that an answer to the question? How can he possibly know what they will cherish the most? Is he only doing this to keep filling the house with stuff just to upset mom? What about all the stuff they won’t want?
Then it hit me.
My dad has no idea what his future grandchildren will like. He does not know if the aforementioned cheaply-made hat will be his granddaughter’s favorite as a kid. He has no idea if his grandson will grow up to collect unique pins or bobbleheads. And he is not trying to force them to like the things he has collected. He knows that sports memorabilia have been important to his own children, so he holds on to his collection thinking that maybe those things will mean something to mine and my sister’s children someday too.
What will be the thing that is cherished the most? Will it be a souvenir glass from an All-Star Game? How about a replica World Series ring? Maybe a small piece of tile from a football stadium renovation? Or even a puck used in at a game at the United Center? It may be a while before my dad finds out, but nothing will stop him from making sure the things he has saved get into the hands of those who will cherish them the most.
It already means a lot to me that my father has a plan for his mementos when the time comes for my own family to begin. I think that is a very valuable takeaway from his ideas and from looking at our Chicago/Green Bay display case: Sometimes it is the smallest thing that can mean the most. But it takes a plan to get the valued possessions of one’s personal legacy into the hands of those they love.
It is great to plan for the financial future for your kids and grandkids. Savings accounts, investment portfolios, and even retirement plans can help make an uncertain future a little easier. But it will not be the US Savings Bonds that will make my children smile when they receive a gift from their grandparents. It will not be a stock certificate or a bank statement that brings the most joy. Instead, it will be the unexpected little things. It will be a souvenir from long ago and the story that goes along with it.
It will be the strangest thing that means the most, probably the thing that will be completely unexpected. Planning for the unexpected almost seems impossible, and in many regards it is. But if you are anything like my father or our client who donated to our office collection, preserving a legacy for the generations after us will help make the unexpected a little easier to swallow.
I encourage each of you to truly think about what your legacy means to you and to your loved ones. Find the little thing that you think a child or grandchild would cherish the most, and make sure you hold on to it. When we start to see everything as long-term, nearly forever, then and only then can our legacies be built.
The memories contained in possessions can sometimes mean more to your loved ones than any dollar amount. The personal touch and the continued legacy of a family heirloom, whether 100 years or 100 days old, will have the biggest impact. Those are the things your loved ones will cherish the most.
I may never know what my great-grandchildren will still have of mine, what will get passed down generation-to-generation or the things they will cherish the most. In the meantime, I think I will hold on to what I think I would have liked at that age, what I would have thought was cool.
I may have thought it strange at first to have personal items delivered to our office football room or the first time I heard my dad ay he was saving something for non-existent grandchildren. But I’m starting to understand: The smallest thing could be the centerpiece, the pride and joy, of your legacy.