My mother was the somewhat unwilling collector of black and white cow paraphernalia. From refrigerator magnets, to stuffed animals, to cookie jars, to earrings, if it had the familiar markings of a Holstein on it, we all thought Mom should have it.

Aunt Jo, on the other hand, was “into” squirrels and crows, and similarly, the family inundated her with useless little trinkets and reminders of what we assumed was her unending passion.

Both women passed away last March.

My brother and I selected a hummingbird to grace the corner of Mom’s headstone, as she loved them, too. My cousins chose a headstone adorned with a squirrel, and somehow found a permanent flower holder with a crow on it.

My total inheritance was the cow cookie jar that I had originally given Mom, only now it was filled with cow magnets. I placed the porcelain jar on a shelf in my rec room. It is a fitting tribute, and often the sight of it sparks both memories and tears.

A couple weeks ago, I happened to spot a rosin squirrel votive candleholder at Fred Meyer’s. On impulse, I bought it and mailed it to my cousin, suggesting they place it at Aunt Jo’s spot at the table on Thanksgiving.

In reply, my cousin mailed me a box of cutout gingerbread turkey cookies. I could smell them even before I opened the package, and immediately, a lump formed in my throat. For literally decades, Aunt Jo had mailed me turkey cookies every Thanksgiving.

So some of the traditions have survived, and the legacies live on. And that’s a very good, yet very bittersweet, thing.