Lesson behind a Family Heirloom

Christmas is a time of family and gift giving. So let me tell you a story about a gift from family and its heavy lesson to me.

The Background

I have a family heirloom passed down from my great grandmother. She gave it to her daughter, who gave it to her daughter-in-laws. It is part of a set, my mother (the older daughter-in-law) passed it down to me.

It was a necklace – custom made from the gold my great grandmother hid during China’s cultural revolution.

The cultural revolution was a terrifying time in China. Millions were prosecuted. The intellectuals and elites were particularly targeted, but it was a time of suspicion and terror for most.

The Story

My great grandparents are from local gentry families and landowners. So they were prime targets, representing the “Old”.

Their son, my great uncle, escaped to Hong Kong. But my great grandparents and my grandmother stayed.

The red guards (who were young students and children in a para-militarized movement) raided their home several times, and took almost all of their valuable possessions.

My grandmother, the clever resourceful woman that she is,  saved a small piece of gold nugget and wrapped it up in rags. She tied it to the string of the lamp/curtain (sorry, I was little and the details were a bit blurry) and used it to operate the lamp/curtain day in and day out. The point is that it was the last little bit of money and it was hiding in plain sight.

It was never found.

A couple years after the cultural revolution ended, my great grandmother had the melted down and made into the heirloom jewelries.

Like I had mentioned in the my grandmother’s post, the older generations in the family does not really speak of the hard times in the past, but this is one story that was sometimes told.

The Lesson

I’d like to think of the necklace as a reminder and a symbol. I have grown up in a much more privileged environment than my parents, grandparents and the generations before. I have never known the starvation, war and fear they had experienced, and I pray I never will.

So, sometimes life will flip upside down. As we are all working towards FIRE or other money goals, it’s important to remember that sometimes life will slap you. And sometimes life slaps you, stomps on you and buries you in a ten feet hole. Sometimes your accomplishment will turn you into a target and sometimes injustice will fall.

Hang on, be strong, focus on your loved ones.

The Storm will pass and life goes on.


Sorry I went a bit dark and heavy there.

Merry Christmas everyone! All the best this year and every year.

Love, Jeannie