Monday, August 3, 2009



The sharing of good times is essential for a strong and healthy family. Having a united family means spending time together in activities that help to forge bonds between the generations. In this space, I’ll describe how younger and older family members can take part in a valuable activity on behalf of a child or the children of the family.

Positive family activities can help the children
Families have many happy times together, and there are special occasions -- such as vacations, arrival of a new baby, visits from dear relatives, and achievements of household members – that everyone wants to recall. These happy events need to be recognized by the entire family and commemorated in some way with the children.

On the other hand, sometimes families go through disturbing or sad changes – a long-distance move, a loss of a pet or a separation or death of a loved one. Small children are likely to have strong emotions about these unhappy events, but lack the words to express their feelings. Families can help children remember and celebrate happy events and cope with sad ones through activities that foster communication among family members.

What is a "count your blessings" memory box?
One positive family activity is the making of a memory box, filled with things of meaning to the family. The project I refer to here isn’t just any collection of memorabilia. It’s a “count your blessings” box, made up of small objects and photos that tell a story about a strong and united family in happy times.

Here is an activity that can involve several family members and take from one afternoon to several days. There doesn’t have to be any rush – it can be done at any pace that allows everyone to contribute some pieces and have a say in how they’re displayed.

The goal is to create a tapestry of positive memories that celebrate what it means to be a family. It can help the children and older people, too, express their feelings about events, and it’s a great way to honor the past. And, it doesn’t have to be only about the past. It can even include notes or hand-drawn pictures by family members about how they envision the future filled with even more blessings.

What goes in the box?
What constitutes worthy stuff for your memory box is a personal or family decision. The story can be told with a variety of mementos, such as drawings, illustrations, and photos of family, homes, and pets, announcements of happy events, vacation-finds like shells, unusual rocks, pressed flowers, small toys or other gifts from loved ones.

If the box display is temporary, there really aren’t any particular criteria for the contents. It’s a selection of whatever everyone wants. If the box is to be treasured for many years, as is, then, the selection of items needs to be done carefully. That way, it will have long-term relevance to the people involved and clearly represent a timeframe that they recognize and want to honor.

There should be room in the box, one or more inches, to overlap pieces and lay things out in more than one direction. It’s a collage, not a book, so it calls for variety of items with different sizes and textures. Try not to overload a memory box. If it’s for the children, then they should be able to remove and touch the pieces and understand that everything needs to be put back. This is an activity that needs supervision in the case of small children.

The memory box can be any size that meets your needs, but bigger is better. Don’t settle for a small box that can get lost in the shuffle. One way to have the box visible for daily viewing is the memory table, which is a memory box that sits on top and is attached to a table. The advantage of the memory table is that it can be viewed as often as anyone would like. Also, it is usually built to be a useful piece of furniture, and not some “museum piece.”

A memory table for a grand daughter
At the end of the year, I plan to travel to Ohio to visit my two sons, my older son’s wife, my two grand daughters, and other family members. I hope to be able to stay for more than a week. It will be a very special visit for me because I won’t have seen my family in many months, and I’ll see my new grand daughter for the first time.

As a celebration of our visit together, I propose to make a “count your blessings" memory table for 2009 as a gift for my granddaughter who will be three years old. But since the box is to be part of a child’s table, it can be used for several years, first by the older grand daughter and later by both girls. The things in the box will represent the life of her family in 2009, involving a major move halfway across the country, a stay in her other grandparents' home, a move to her new home, and the arrival of the new baby.

Of course, I want her to think of my visit, as well as that of other relatives who will be there for the holidays, as an important event in her year. We’ll include a few photos of the whole family, enjoying some activity. We’ll also make a tiny book of finger-paint handprints of everybody present, along with big letter signatures for each of us. I’ll bring a few things with me – a photo of Enrique and me standing in front of our new house and another with our dog, Sofi. In addition, I am looking through some of my small “treasures”, that I think my grand daughter would like to have, and will choose a couple of them.

The project that I envision for my grand daughter will be a memory box that sits on top of a child's table or a rectangular coffee table. We’ll purchase it in a flea market or maybe some family will have one available. I’ll buy flat molding to make a rectangle “picture frame” just the size of the table. It will be put together with liquid nails and wood screws. The top will be Plexiglas, cut to fit. As a finished piece, it can be, alternately, a tea table or a worktable for the girls. We’ll also look around for two small chairs to go with the table. (My sister, the girls’ great aunt, is a pro at flea market shopping, and I’m almost sure that she can come up with what we need.)

The memory table that I describe here doesn’t have to be a permanent display. If family members want to, we can organize more “count your blessings” tables, with both grand daughters in mind, to celebrate future years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking (and hunting) for things to put in your Memory Box. I found what is left of your tea set when you were little. There are still doll house items that I missed the first time.
Do you know that I still have your Brownie and Girl Scout pin? Mother saved everything.
West Virginia was beautiful. We just returned on Sunday. I plan to make a book for the girls with pictures of our family and ancestors. The girls can remember with us, not the same memories for sure, but new ones for all of us.