It’s been over a week since my Mom’s 80th birthday party. What a day it was! My Mom and Dad are blessed, as they like to say, with five children and 15 grandchildren. A single, strong thread connects us all to each other – our Poppy & Grandma, who will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this winter. But that story must wait for another day.
This particular day was Grandma’s. On a recent Friday, we all gathered at a well-known Polynesian restaurant – on a perfect summer evening – to celebrate the heart of our family: Grandma. Her adult children and grandchildren (who range in age from 11 to 32) hustled from their city office buildings while others drove in from the suburbs, fighting Friday rush hour traffic to get there on time. A lanky, 20-something grandson even flew in from Brooklyn for the occasion. Our Mom has always loved Hawaii, so we tried to recreate a slice of Maui for her special day – pineapple centerpieces, Mai Tai drinks, and fresh lavender leis contributed to the festivities.
In retirement, my Mom and Dad are pro-actively trying to downsize and de-clutter. While we applaud their efforts, this latest phase has truly challenged us in the gift-giving department. When your folks are sending stuff out the front door faster than the Salvation Army can pick it up, presenting them with a large gift almost borders on insensitivity.
What could we possibly give our Mom (and Grandma) to let her know how very much she means to us?
The answer came in the form of a simple, but heartfelt book. One of the granddaughters, who also happens to be our daughter, is 23 years old and living at home while in graduate school. Clare and her twin sister, Maggie, conceived the idea of assembling a group of 80 memories for my Mom’s 8oth birthday. They dashed off emails to the entire family, and requested a specific number of memories from each person – strategically assigned by the individual’s relationship to Grandma. A deadline was given: ASAP! The girls crossed their fingers, hoping all would comply.
Within a few days, Clare and Maggie had their content in hand. Nothing like peer pressure to motivate our clan into action. The memories poured in by text and email; some were quite lengthy, while others were just a few sentences. Each memory is genuine, however, and reflects the unique and special bond Grandma enjoys with each family member. We cried while reading some, and laughed while reading others – so many special moments.
The girls then scoured our haphazard photo archives to secure the pictures that would accompany the text. Ever the artist, Clare decided to convert all the photos in the main part of the book to black-and-white – to create a vintage feel. The last photo was also the largest one – in glorious color – of our entire family’s most recent celebration – my niece’s lovely wedding last February.
The final product – which can be achieved with the help of any digital photo-sharing website – was amazing! Grandma loved it. The book was a perfect way to truly tell her how much she means to us, all while respecting our parents’ decision to downsize their current home.
Grandma’s book of our memories is the length of a sheet of paper, and stands approximately a half-inch high. It is small in size and large in love – just what every Grandma wants.