Intellectually, I know memories about those I’ve loved and lost will forever be with me; however, certain objects symbolize their essence. When I grieve for all that I discarded as an immature adolescent, I remember a lovely woman, Anna, who explained why she does not collect any cherished objects. So many of her close friends just could not bear to part with their prized possessions as the Nazis came to power. All perished. Anna’s story soothed me the day I inadvertently lost my mother’s diamond engagement ring. Despite my internal psychological vault, I do treasure some truly special pieces in my home. I cannot imagine letting them go.

My parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1956 by flying to the Caribbean where they bought a set of fine bone china with a classic Indian Tree design. My mother unexpectedly died the following year. Three years later, my father married Hilda. I became engaged to David, and we planned to get married the following year. Hilda insisted I move into her South Shore apartment if we were going to be a family. Even though I felt lassoed, preferring to remain in my parents’ home for my first year of medical school before marriage, I complied. Retrospectively I can empathize now that I, as a 19-year-old, was not equipped to fully mourn or face my ambivalence about my father’s beautiful new wife. Moving to their new flat, I had little nostalgia for my mother’s interests in antiques and was certainly not fussy about the china.

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Hilda, wisely noting how little I kept of my mother’s possessions, offered, “If you don’t want that china, I’ll take it.” Eight years later as David and I moved into our home, I slowly realized how much I had carelessly given away years before. I remembered the obnoxious antique dealer telling me, “No one wants these nowadays, but I’ll take them off your hands,” offering a measly sum. Witnessing my maturation as well as my growing affection for her, Hilda asked if I’d like my mother’s china. Recognizing her generosity and love, I gladly accepted it. Although we entertained a great deal using fancy dishes, I rarely set out this precious china lest it be damaged. It signifies so much of my journey into adulthood.

Now that I am in my 80s, whenever I think of downsizing, I demur, knowing I would not wish to live without my piano. Of course, there are smaller ones which would not take up so much room. A new “upright” one might even have a better sound than my Lyon and Healy baby grand that has a cracked floorboard. Nonetheless, my attachment has little to do with its acoustics.

When I no longer pleaded that I wanted to study the harp, rather than the piano, my parents agreed to arrange it if I still felt that way when I turned 12. Why I wanted a harp had more to do with watching a harpist perform (no idea where or when). She had lovely fancy sleeves dramatically draping down as she played. I fantasized that I would appear similarly glamorous with my harp. By the time I was 12, my piano playing had progressed and become enjoyable, so I no longer remembered my girlish idea. Around that time, my parents traded our upright piano for a baby grand from our neighbor who was downsizing. This piano has been with me ever since. My piano teacher came to our home. I can envision my father sitting next to me at every lesson. Never having been able to afford such a luxury as a kid, he reveled at my opportunities.

As I wander through my home, the many treasures we collected from our travels instantly spark memories; they are the album of our lives. On David’s and my first trip to England, we traveled with an antique dealer throughout the Lake District. I had hoped to find a still life painting to place above our fireplace mantel. Our living room had remained bare for ten years after we moved in. Now we could furnish and purchase some art. Instead of my original idea, above the fireplace, in an English house sale, we purchased a large painting, “Sound Advice,” painted by Phoebus Levin in 1876. Other paintings by Levin hang in London’s Kensington Gallery. I always thought the man in the picture resembled

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my husband, who was certainly one to offer sound advice. Our living room became loaded with antiques, my homage to what I imagine my mother might have selected.

Another special item captures world history as well as ours.  In 1981, David and I traveled to South Africa as members of a People-to-People mission visiting medical schools.  In Johannesburg, we purchased a handmade woven carpet depicting a South African artist’s native village.  As we arranged to ship it home, the gallery was not allowed to send it directly to the U.S. because of an embargo on South African products due to the apartheid.  We painfully witnessed that horrendous racism most memorably in the Baragwanath Hospital.  Our carpet had to make a stop in Israel first before arriving here.

Never believing that less is more, I capture the more is more in my dining room. The silver candlesticks used for the Sabbath were a wedding gift to David’s maternal grandmother sometime late in the 19th century when she still lived in The Pale to which Tsarist Russia restricted Jews. She immigrated to the United States in 1920 along with David’s mother and sister. My daughter-in-law looks forward to inheriting them.

I always admired the tall brass candlesticks that lived in my father’s and stepmother Hilda’s home. Her life deserves a short story about beauty, resilience, and aging. After my father died, she married a third time and gifted the antique candelabrum to me as this current husband’s home was furnished only with a contemporary eye. When he died, I inherited one of his Salvador Dali prints!

My last treasure was a gift from my stepmother’s fourth husband!  He was Herman Spertus who with his brother developed the Spertus Institute of Judaica in Chicago. In the early days of that marriage, Herman witnessed me with my young sons. When he and Hilda downsized, I was taken aback, amazed when he presented me with a stone sculpture of a mother and child that has occupied a special place in our home. As I recognize both my privilege of family and their symbolic presence, I am forever grateful that fate has smiled on me.

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Brenda Solomon

Brenda Solomon, MD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. She was a pioneer in teaching a required ethics course for all analytic candidates. Her publications include a survey of all graduates from the Chicago Institute, a monograph on Artificial Reproduction and Psychoanalysis, Step-parenting, and various Self Psychological Case Presentations. She can be contacted at

How to Cite This:

Solomon, B. (2022). Holding on to my loved ones through beautiful objects. Clio’s Psyche, 29(1), 66-69.

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