I remember once, a long time ago, when a woman my family knew went to her closet and pulled out six hand-crocheted blankets, courtesy of my grandmother's handiwork--one blanket for each of her children. Each blanket was in a protective plastic bag, the children whom they belonged to long past babyhood. Look, she said, I kept them all.
Similarly, I remember my paternal grandmother showing me her wedding picture--she was smiling, young, no more than 18, I think, and she wore a polka-dotted knee-length dress. She then reached into the depths of her wardrobe and pulled out that same dress, a pale pink background with (I think) black or dark blue dots. At the time, she would have been somewhere near her fiftieth anniversary.
These things--wedding dresses and handmade baby blankets--are heirlooms. Or, ideally, should be. I understand that circumstances happen--marriages crumble, babies don't always make it, and sometimes, you just need to clear out the old to make space for the new.
But it always gives me a twinge of sadness to see abandoned wedding dresses and baby blankets in thrift stores. For each cast-off, I think, there must be a story, and I often wonder about that.