When I was in graduate school, my mom gave me the unexpected gift of her fathers WWII era dog tag. If there was a set I'm not sure, I only knew of the one remaining tag. Small and heavier than I expected with a notch cut into one end. The stamped information was recessed into the metal and green with age.
Prior to that point, I hadn't really thought about the life my grandfather had lived before I entered his world. In giving me his tag, my mom inadvertently gave me reason to take pause and examine what I really knew about the family that surrounded me. To this day, it remains one of my favorite gifts, even though it wasn't given on a birthday, or holiday, but one of those seemingly random "regular" days of our lives. I kept it with me, sometimes in a pocket, sometimes in a bag. I placed around my neck when I travelled, a contant reminder of family as I navigated souks in Morocco, and jungles in Panama.
I had used various materials to hold the tag - settling on a piece of thin nylon climbing rope. This was fantastic, especially in wet climates like Panama, as it held up to my daily abuse. Man, though, did it start to smell!
This issue was resolved when my wife presented me with my gift this year for Valentine's Day. I received a long stainless steel chain, and in addition, a set of dog tags with similar information to my grandfathers. It was truly a thoughtful and fantastic gift and we both received an added benefit of reduced funk smell!
So now, as it jostles around with my daily movements, I am reminded of a family that came before me, and one that I've started on my own.