Too Good to Last

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

One of the reasons we traveled to Bremen, Germany in May was to visit the towns where my mother’s family came from.

My maternal great grandmother’s family came from a town a few miles south of Bremen. The family last name was Cluver, and they came from Verden, a town with about 25,000 people. It was a very important place in the Middle Ages. Charlemagne slaughtered 4500 Saxons there in 782 for sliding back to pagan worship after they had been baptized. I imagine some of them were my relatives. The town was closely connected to the Old Saxon Law courts nearby. The town was considered a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire. A medium size cathedral,  built  between the 12th and 15th centuries, was home to a Prince Bishop from 1180 on, from whom my Cluver ancestors enjoyed great political patronage. That relationship also caused the eventual downfall of the family.

We have extensive records on the Cluvers. They were very wealthy in the centuries before the Reformation. Northern Germany is flat, low,  and swampy, and the Cluvers possessed the knowledge and ability to drain wetland so that it could be used for growing crops.  The Cluvers often loaned money to the Prince Bishop of Verden as well as the Prince Archbishop of Bremen. The bishops rewarded the Cluvers with land,  allowed them to live on grand estates that they owned, and used their influence to further the Cluver’s business and political aspirations. Things went well until the Reformation and the 30 Years War, when Sweden invaded and occupied the area and the whole region became Protestant. The Prince Bishops were ousted from power.The Cluvers clung tenaciously to the Church and refused to convert, I believe as much out of greed as from religious conviction. They didn’t want to abandon the cash cow that gave them so much prestige and power. I gather that they were pretty annoying and rebellious toward the occupying Swedes, who retaliated by killing as many male Cluvers they could find. Eventually, the family lost most of their wealth and lands, and became small Lutheran farmers like the majority of their neighbors.

It is hard to describe the feelings I had as I walked in the cathedrals of Bremen and Verden and saw the monuments and tombs of my ancestors.  There is a quite large and elaborate tablet from 1457 on the wall near the north Tower in the cathedral in Bremen in memory of Segebad Cluver. I wonder how he would feel knowing how things turned out. Greed can be pretty destructive. I also saw acres and acres of good farmland, though, so I suppose the family contributed something to the area that lasted.

What is a a gift or opportunity you’ve come to regret?



60 thoughts on “Too Good to Last”

  1. There are a number of gifts I’ve received over the years that turned out to be ‘way more work than I’d anticipated… an antique rug from my great aunt comes to mind. Eventually had to give it away. I’ll keep thinking.

    OT: Up to the cities today for closing on Robbinsdale House. Be back Tuesday evening, and THEN we get to settle in (and I’ll be able to come up with a blog post, about moving no doubt).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. It just occurred to me that my abbreviated moniker for “Chris in Owatonna” is C-i-O, similar to Barbara in Robbinsdale (now River Town”) abbrevation was B-i-R and madislandgirl’s is “m-i-g.”

    If we can recruit an Anne or Amy or Arnie from Lakeville, or Luverne, or Litchfield, then I can have a conversation with that person and it will be A-f-L versus C-i-O. 🙂

    All the oldsters in the room will get it, but I’m not sure anyone under about age 40 will remember.

    (*sigh* Monday morning humor is always a bit shaky)

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Very interesting story about your visit to the town where your mother’s family came from, Renee.

    I don’t have any great regrets for any opportunities or gifts I have received although there certainly are some that have not turned out well. The ones that come to mind are employment opportunities I accepted. These jobs that turned out to be unsuitable or not as good as I expected were all in some way a positive parts of my life despite their negative aspects. I always tried to do the best I could at any job I had which helped make even the worst job into a somewhat worthwhile learning experience.


  4. Not sure how to read the question. Things I received or did not? opportunities taken or not taken?

    I can think of no gift I regret receiving. A few annoying things along the way that were easily trashed or passed on. Pastors receive a raft of tacky religious items. Crosses, art, etc. that you need to have on display. When I left the pulpit, they traveled to Mankato with me to go right in the trash.

    I regret leaving the classroom, or moreso taking the job I took. I was burned out and needed a change but I chose to do that for which I lacked the skills and chose a bad partner.


  5. I revel in Chris taking the opportunity to publish. A bit jealous, a lot happy for him, nor matter how it all works out.
    I revel in leaps people on here have taken. Steve to HV. bir to biw, others I don’t remember in detail.


  6. My wife inherited by default an ancient upright piano her grandmother had owned for decades before. “Inherited by default” means no one else wanted it, and she for some reason thought it would look nice in our tiny living room in our tiny house in Carlton.

    So we rented a trailer, recruited a few strong backs to haul the bugger out of Grandma’s house, into the trailer, up to Carlton from Farmington, and unloaded it and wrestled it into the house.

    There it sat for four years, out of tune, in need of serious repair, and no fun for me (a music educator who barely passed his piano proficiency exam) to play.

    We schlepped that infernal beast back to the Cities, where it collected further dust in our next house for six years until we moved to Chicagoland. Fortunately, my sister and BIL wanted the steel-and-wood monster for their house, hoping their two kids might show some interest in learning to play the piano. How they got it into the basement of their south Minneapolis arts-and-crafts bungalow I’ll never know.

    I think the kids did play on it some. My niece actually took piano lessons for a few years, but Sis and BIL realized the old rickety, broken down wreck wasn’t a fit instrument for a child to learn on, so they bought a fancy electronic keyboard for my niece.

    Rather than try to muscle the whole quarter-ton deadweight up the basement stairs and out of the house, they ended up dismantling the thing enough to be able to remove it in manageable chunks.

    A sad demise for what was once probably a noble and fine-sounding instrument for its first two or three generations of owners.

    The cost of moving it from place to place, the sore backs and achy muscles and likely a few pinched fingers and toes, and the headaches of trying to find some unwitting sucker to take it off our hands (sorry Sis, but we warned you!) was far greater than the enjoyment any of us got from playing or listening to the instrument.

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My brother and I (and my mother) muse from time to time about what will happen to the parlor grand that moved around South Minneapolis with my father and his family and currently sits in my mother’s living room (where it has been since roughly 1958). It’s a good instrument – still in very good shape. If I took it, it would take up easily 1/3 of my living room – and given the positioning of radiators, windows and fireplace, I’m not sure which 1/3. My brother has more room, but none of his kids play (2 took lessons but quit to pursue other passions). It was one of the few things that my paternal grandmother insisted on moving from place to place (it had been purchased when the family lived in a fine house near Minnehaha Creek and then, when that house was lost due to financial problems, related to the Great Depression and its downturn, it bounced around South Minneapolis until it landed in it’s current location). Because of that history, it feels like it deserves to stay in the family a bit longer.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. It is so sad to see what has happened to pianos. When my mother was a teen having a working piano in the home was extraordinary good fortune. A piano was a path toward culture and respect, a way to escape the limitations of one’s current existence. (August Wilson’s play “The Piano Lesson” works this theme out.) My mother learned to play piano partly because it offered an escape from the limitations of her life in the 1920s.

    As I found out when moving, having a piano in the home now is a problem, not an asset. Most old pianos need to be tuned, if not also repaired. Instead of thinking our old family piano was a lovely object worth a significant amount of money I learned it was a problem that would be expensive to fix.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I now have what was a friend’s family piano. It is a sturdy little spinet upright. Pianos are certainly not the cultural asset they once were – which is a sadness in its way – but the difference in tone and sound between this and the electric keyboard we had before is well worth the cost of moving and tuning. (Plus the tuner I found is an absolute character – tunes pianos on nights and weekends for the sheer joy of it, the money he makes tuning is secondary it seems.) It felt good to know I could keep my friend’s piano under the fingers of a student for a few more years. Plus his piano is a small enough it actually fits in my living room (see note above about my family’s piano…).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When emptying my parents’ house, I had to find something to do with the old family hi-fi (which dated to the early 60s if not before and was memorable for the little eyes on the arm that made it look like a friendly snake). Since I had noplace to store it, I took it to Vintage Music Co. on 38th. They told me that old stereos were in some demand–not as record players, but as furniture. People were taking out the audio components and renovating the cabinets into liquor cabinets, wet bars, whatever they’re called. I haven’t been back to Vintage since, but I hope the hi-fi found a new life in somebody’s rec room. It’s too bad there’s no similar second life for old pianos–they seem a tad bulky for that kind of renovation, though I suppose one could create a pop-up bar inside the top or add cabinet doors to the front. Piano bookcases? Piano blanket chests? Piano aquariums, like they do with old TVs and Macintosh computers?

        Liked by 3 people

  8. Morning all. When I became a single parent, two gifts came to Child that made me crazy. The first was a phone toy with 4 big buttons, each that made an animal noise when pushed. And when you lifted the receiver off the toy, it rang – an eerily realistic tone. I can’t tell you the number of times I went to answer the house phone and realized it was the toy! After about 3 weeks, the toy “mysteriously” stopped working. Child enjoyed it even without the sounds.

    The second toy was more maddening. I had let my friends and siblings know that I didn’t want Barbie dolls for Child when she was very little. Not because I was worried about Barbie’s absurd body shape or anything – I just didn’t want to have to pick up little teeny tiny toys before the dogs could get to them. I figured when Child was older and able to pick up her own toys then it would be OK. My middle sister sent an Ariel doll (from The Little Mermaid for Solstice. Little tiny everything – shoes, hairbrush, clamshell bra! My sister’s excuse? “It wasn’t a Barbie.” I gave it to a shelter.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I owned a beautiful Yamaha console piano (not a gift) which served me very well for 35 years. But, as Steve pointed out, it needed a lot of maintenance to keep it in good shape – twice yearly tunings, a climate control system to help keep it in tune, voicing, etc. Plus it weighed a half ton and was difficult to move. I wanted something less expensive to maintain and easier to move but wasn’t impressed with digital keyboards until very recently. Last month I traded my beloved console for a Yamaha digital hybrid piano – wooden keys with a grand piano touch, felt hammers, sound sampled from a Yamaha concert grand, volume control, three pedals which function like a “real” piano, 5 voices (2 classical piano – one brighter than the other, 2 electric piano, and a pretty realistic harpsichord), built in metronome, headphone jack, and recording capability. But the hammers strike an electronic sensor instead of strings. That means NO tuning ever! It is a bit shorter and narrower (18 inches deep) than my old piano but weighs only half as much, is much easier to move, and fun to play. What a beautiful answer to my need. So glad I didn’t have to haul the old Yamaha down the 15 steps to the entry!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We bought a big old upright piano with cast iron innards for $15 for our daughter to practice. One night years later we were out and our two early teen kids let the dog out and then back in without realizing the dog had been skunk sprayed. the dog rolled across the living room carpet. I spent the night tearing up the carpet. The next day, a Sunday, after I had done a church service, I realized the odor had etched all that cast iron in the piano. I tore it into pieces and threw it out the back door. I told the church that Sandy wasn’t with me because she stank. Several people told me that I stank a little, too.

      Liked by 3 people

  10. At one time, we had two upright pianos in the house. One was a player piano that had been in my mother’s family and still had some piano rolls going back to the ’30s. My parents had had it restored so it was in workable condition, but even heavier than a regular upright. The other piano is an upright grand, an Epworth made by Williams & Sons of Chicago. As the name implies, Epworth pianos were marketed directly to Methodist ministers under a very liberal arrangement whereby the piano was offered on approval and the payments were not onerous. Robin’s grandmother was a church organist and her grandfather was a Methodist minister. Robin inherited the piano from her grandmother and it was shipped out from Berkeley to her parent’s house. The first time we moved it into our own home, I borrowed a pickup truck and Robin and I moved it ourselves.
    Though the player piano was something of a novelty and fun for our kids when they were young, two pianos were at least one too many and we eventually sold the player. We still have the upright grand, but it rarely gets played and it tends to dominate the room. Because of the family origins of the instrument, ideally we would wish that someone in the family would take it. It’s really Robin’s decision, but I think we’re ready to let it go.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Daughter has claimed our piano, wbich isn’t too much of a behemoth. It is a yamaha studio piano. It may be many years before she is ready to house it.


  12. piano stories. i picked up one form pjs neighbo that was a bit of a project but no big deal. it sits in the lobby of my office and gets played and enjoyed.
    my first piano happened because i proclaimed i wanted one and miraculously a month later i was told where to go pick it up.i enjoyed it for many years and many moves. i have one now thats a baby grand and a little tougher to move but i love areal piano. never have a problem keeping it in tune. something about thee wooden resonance vs the electric that work for me. i have 3 more in my warehouse ranging from expensive old and beautiful to prttey and good to functional to decorative and one that is ugly but sounds great.
    piano anyone?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. And he’s not too far off. Why don’t you guys drive down for the August book club meeting? You could get a signed copy of Chris’ book, meet the metro baboons, and our pot-luck meals are pretty damn good.

        Liked by 3 people

  13. great post renee, you make the family tree very interesting. i dont know that we have ever asked but is your son named segebad? what a creat name.
    your question is not one where the answer pops into my mind as easily as some of the other blog questions but i bet it will come. especially with the given that we wont have another topic until 5 or 6 days form now when you write another one.
    i tend to be one that doesnt regret too much. i am thomas edison finding 10,000 ways not to invent a light bulb. if i miss out on the stuff i do wrong im missing some of my best stuff.
    i do regret though and have wonderful hindsight as to how i should have done things when i had the chance.
    i tend not to feel too much regret though because if you feel hesitant and dont enjoy what you have while you have it what the heck is the use. i understand the philosophy i just have a little trouble with the mentality.
    if the relatives had been butt kissers and tried to join the swedes maybe they would have held on a while longer but really they would likely have just been a little slower in their demise. if youre gonna get fried get it over with and move on is my motto.
    i had a job offer years ago ( i dont get many) that wuld have been a better idea it turns out than the avenue i took instead but i learned a little something in the process.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Son is Gabriel. He was born in Canada, named after the first martyr of Canada, Gabriel Lalemont, and Gabriel Dumont, a famous Metis warrier. Daughter is Annalise, named after my crotchety great aunt and Anne Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. love the name annalise. always have. never thought about why, just do.
        gabe is good but segebad…. i think you missed your chance.
        first martyr of canada? got pummeled with cans of labatts until he died. he was guilty of making all the lumberjacks take off their tugues on sundays during the dogsled mass. the frenchies wanted to cut him some slack but the newfies would hear of it.


  14. Another nice post, Renee. I’m curious, where do you get such specific information about your ancestors? Also, did you gain some new insights while you were in Verden? Verden, by the way, is the Danish word for world.

    Can’t think of a gift or opportunity that I have regretted getting, at least not a major one. I do wish that my friend, Anne, who lives in a huge mansion on Crocus Hill, would quit gifting me all kinds of stuff she wants to get rid of. Last year for my birthday, she gave me a very fancy demitasse cup and saucer. This year she gave the matching side plate. I have more than plenty dishes, and I neither need or want more, but no matter how much I protest, she insists. Another of her hand-me-downs, a calendar from 1978, was a treasure she thought I’d appreciate because it had pictures of paintings by old Danish artists. She’s 83 years old, and in the process of getting rid of a lot of her worldly possessions; I hope I’m not the recipient of too much more, and certainly not anything major.


    1. My grandmother’s cousin, Alfred Cluver, was a historian and writer who wrote historical novels in plattdeutsch and compiled an extensive genealogy and history on the family in the years before the second world war. He lived near Verden in Rotenburg Wumme during the war. He told my grandmother he had to bury all the geneologies under the wood pile to hide them from Himmler. Cousin Alfred never said why the Nazi’s were intetested. He and an American cousin published the documents in a book in 1958. It is titled Cluverii Chronica: History of the Ancient Clawen, the Medieval Cluvers, I have a copy that the American cousin gave my grandmother. It is available on Amazon, of all things.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thankfully, there’s no way to get her grand piano into our house, and even if there was, no room for it, so I’m safe from that.


  15. This is a great story Renee. And pretty neat you can follow your ancestry back so far.

    When Kelly’s folks were still living, we used to joke that we had to be careful what we gave them because we were going to get it back in a few years. (Her dad was big on ‘re-gifting’… but not in a bad way. Ha!)

    My theater mentor friend that passed recently, he put in his will that all his theater related stuff comes to me. He told me he was doing that. And after he passed his family warned me I’d need a bigger barn. (he was a hoarder). But now his will has gone to probate and the way the rest of the family works, I may never see anything anyway.
    But there should be lots (and LOTS) of books and DVD / VHS tapes. Lots of scenic and costume renderings. No idea what else.

    Speaking of pianos, we have one that was in Kelly’s aunt and uncle’s basement. It was puke green. But we had it completely refinished and refurbished and it’s pretty nice now. Doesn’t get played much (Kelly does play) but it holds candles very nicely. And daughters books and dolls always have a special place on the keyboard.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. love the pointer sisters. there were 4 when they started. like the roaches. i asked suzzy what happened to the 4th sister and she told me that one wasnt a real sister.
    was it bonnie pointer who left to be a rock star and the other sisters continued on with the pointer sisters sound?


  17. what s a gift ive come to regret? how about regret not using better?
    i love music and maybe getting into the biz would have spoiled it but sometimes wish i should have followed it. i had the agent lined up and brought the band back to minneapolis from around the country in 1975 or so.
    i would love to have made a life out of my singing. probably would have killed me but i would have loved it
    and heres the roaches

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Renee asks what gift or opportunity I regret not using well. My answer this morning is “my college years.”

    Those years were rich with possibilities to grow, meet people, stretch my mind and change. When I look back on those years now I am grateful for what they did to make me a better person than I was. (“Better” here means so many different things!) At the same time, I fervently wish I had used the gift of those years better than I did.

    It is the classic paradox of growing up, I suppose. My college years didn’t so much change me as they allowed me to discover who I had been and who I could be. I will forever treasure that. And yet there were all those classes I took but didn’t take seriously, all those people I met but never came to know, all those experiences to grow that I didn’t use because I was doing something more comfortable, all those girls I didn’t kiss.

    Liked by 2 people

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