Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Family History Christmas Present

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We had a delightful day with our kids and my parents. Monday morning, we will travel to New York City for a couple of days to see more family.

I wanted to share a little with you about a gift I got this year from my mother. Under my tree were three binders:

1) The "Document Binder", as my mom called it, contained pages and pages of documentation of my life. This binder contained a vareity of papers such as my birth certificate, kindergarten report card, standardized test scores, a newspaper announcement from when I won a story writing contest in second grade and got to read it on the local radio, a school newspaper article announcing the winners of the kite-flying contest (I won 3rd place in the "most unique" category), swimming class certificates of completion, dance recital programs, my high school graduation program, etc.

2) A Photo Album of my childhood. The photos began with baby pictures and school pictures such as this one:

There were sections with my siblings and me, as well as some photos of me with my grandparents and great-grandparents. The one below shows my brother Mathew (age 1), my great-grandmother, and me (age 3).

A section at the back was entitled "Heritage." Here, my mother had placed photos of her parents, my dad's parents, both of my parents as children, and pictures from my parents' wedding.

3) The last binder was the thickest. It contains dozens and dozens of family letters my mother had written to her family when I was growing up. They're full of stories of me writing on my walls with crayons, blessing the butter, bread, and even my shoes in the dinner prayers, and sleeping with a dozen dolls in my bed. They stretch until when I was adult and include some letters that I wrote to my parents from college, and even my mother's reaction when she learned I was pregnant with my first child. One of my favorite letters is dated October 1979. It's a letter my mom wrote to me on my third birthday. I wanted to share a couple of sentences from it:

"When I think of you, I think of scraped knees and golden hair clear full of sand. You love hot dogs, going to the park, and having books read to you. You dislike sharing your toys with Mathew (my younger brother) and being quiet and sitting still in church. You can ride your trike all by yourself almost all of the way over to the university and back. You can count and read the alphabet. Because you act so smart and are so tall, everyone thinks you're older than you are. But when I tuck you in bed and you put your little arms around my neck and give me a hug, you seem so small and vulnerable. I wish that I could protect you from all of life's sorrows, but I can only hope that life will greet you with the same enthusiasm and love that you rush into it with it."

Needless to say, these binders were my favorite gift. Part of the reason, of course, is because the family historian in me was cheering at how these pictures and letters had been collected and preserved. But the bigger part was because of the memories and feelings these binders brought flooding back into my mind. It made me motivated to save some of these important things - documents, photos, and letters - for my children so that someday perhaps I can give them a gift as special as the one my mom gave me today.

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