You know when you hear a favorite song and it takes you right back to a special memory? Keepsakes have that same kind of power. Grandchildren like the hottest new stuff, but they also have a real need for a sense of family history and connection. At the time of giving, keepsakes create an immediate sense of connection. Over the years, they become a powerful symbol of that connection. Keepsakes evoke not only memories and but also feelings and they make us feel part of something bigger, a sense of belonging to a critical part of a living family legacy. Older people have a need to know they matter and that the things which gave them pleasure are valued by others and grandchildren have a need to have a thing that can be used as a memory.
I heard of a man told the story of visits to his grandmother’s house when he was little and the cut crystal handles she had on the French doors into her dining room. His grandmother would take the door handles off, hang them on a string, and put them in the window so that the sunlight would catch them and there would be a rainbow in the room. When his grandmother died, his aunt gave him the door handles as a keepsake. After that, as he lived in different apartments and town houses across the country, he put those handles on either his bedroom door or the front closet door. Today, he owns his own house and the handles are on a prominent door. Sometimes, he and his six-year-old daughter take the handles off to “make a rainbow in the room.” And that’s the philosophy to life he’s teaching his daughter, a philosophy he got from his grandmother: you can always find a rainbow when you need one.
My own personal treasures are equally as meaningful for me.
There are many items to evoke memories and serve as keepsakes– like using photos/videos, keeping a journal, writing letters and stories for your grandchildren, writing your life story, giving a handmade gift — all can become treasures. There are also some special things you can do with an eye toward creating keepsakes. I recommend that you start early and make a plan of what you want to share. Then you may be more likely to follow through and make the memories more integrated into the relationship. But, if you are like me, you don’t plan ahead and you can simply make sure that when you do have keepsakes for your grandchildren, you make at least one special memory!
Stringing decorations for Great grandparents
My father is almost 94 and my mother is 85. They live together nearby with the help of only once a week cleaning service. We try to make sure they have meals prepared and available in case they don’t feel like cooking but don’t always manage.
They grew up during the depression and the effect that has had on them is evident even today. My mother suffered more because her father also died in the midst of the depression leaving my grandmother with 7 children to raise. Both of my parents are deeply religious.
My mother has always loved Christmas and reflects a rather childlike wonder but more importantly a depth of love about the holidays that few people can match. Anyway, my husband likes to make sure they have a little Christmas cheer in their surroundings so he bought a small Norfolk island pine tree.
The grandchildren were over for the day and we went down to my parents – their great grandparent’s house to decorate the little tree. First we had to pop the popcorn – a minor task compared to the days of cooking over the stove not to mention the open fire. Then we had to get four separate – yet equal – needles and thread for the four grandchildren (you know how that goes) and give some instructions. The stringing of popcorn and cranberries made a bit of a mess but also a lovely decoration for the tree. The children have a fun memory of doing something that brought joy to their great grandparents and it will also be good for the birds after the holidays – waste not, want not – as my mother would say.
What have you done to share holiday joy?
One of my favorite times of the year is Thanksgiving because it’s all about warmth, food, family and of course, giving thanks. Every year my grandchildren’s school holds an open house and puts on a great program just for grandparents. It is called Grandparent’s Chocolate…which probably came from someone identifying their two best things in the world.
The children prepare skits, songs, poems and pictures to entertain us and then we get to visit their classroom to see what they are learning and where they sit and meet their teachers. It is great to get to share that with them and helps us become more involved in their lives. We also get our photo with each one of the kids (we have 4 at this school so we have a lot of photos).
In the third grade the children show us their Flat Katie and tell us about her great adventures at the Cubs game, Seattle trip and going to the American girl store.
In first grade the children get to draw a picture of what they will be when they grow up. There are firemen and policemen, there are Doctors and Nurses, there are astronauts and even Supermen but I think Michael has the best idea ever –
When Michael grows up, he wants to be a doughnut maker. Because he says it makes it more likely that he can have doughnuts for breakfast which is, after all, the real reason one grows up anyway. And doughnuts were easier to draw than rocket ships 🙂