Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Box of Memories

My thirteen year old daughter just found her memorabilia box this afternoon as we have been lazing around the house this holiday. She snapped off the lid, and has since literally spent hours going through the collection of items that have found their way into posterity over the past thirteen years. Each item was seen anew with fresh eyes, and the stories had to be told all over again. When the mess had been reorganized and cleaned up, she announced, "Gosh, I'm a pretty special person! Everyone likes me and I'm really smart!" Now, I've known this for over a decade, but do you have any idea how unusual it is for a young teen girl to state those sorts of feelings? We usually spend time trying to convince her of her worth, value, and niceness. That's pretty normal for young teens, who often struggle with finding their place in the world and maintaining their self-esteem. I think we may have found a cure for the adolescent blues!

It wasn't what I had intended when I started the "Savings Boxes" for each of my girls so long ago. I thought I was collecting bits of their childhood so that they would have keepsakes when they grew up and left home. I wanted them to have something to share with their children as they told the stories from their early years. I know how much I, in my middle age, treasure the small bits that have been passed to me from my parents. I wanted them to have a bit more to enjoy, so I've been a bit more intentional about saving the odds and ends over time.

But this afternoon's foray down memory lane helps me to see that the Savings Boxes already serve an important purpose, long before I suspected that they would. The boxes of stuff are loved and appreciated by the girls right now, and they play an important role in self-esteem. The owners of the boxes feel loved and valued because someone took the time to collect these bits of life over the years. They can look back on newspaper clippings of special events in their lives, glimpse drawings and see samples of their first attempts at writing their names. All of the special moments are captured in the wrinkled remains of school program flyers, folded church bulletins, and a few pictures that have snuck into the boxes.

And even more important the the remnants of school events, the boxes contain artifacts from before their memories truly become clear. There are favorite toys from infancy and toddlerhood, outgrown clothing lovingly made for each child by Nana, and scraps of worn out shirts and dresses that were favorites in their time. Some can even be matched to the annual photograph, speaking of the importance of the garment.

And in the very bottom of the box, we find items that actually date back to the blessed event itself. The knitted hat that warmed baby's small head in the hospital is there, and so are the plastic bracelets that identified mother and child. The small bow that was glued to her head for her first hospital picture is there, too, and brings back memories for me if not for her. Her response is a bit more indignant: "What do you mean, they GLUED that bow onto my head??" We laugh together about the silliness of it all, and flip through the cards and gift tags that made their way into the collection. It's quite obvious that this child was anticipated, loved and wanted.

All together, when taken as a whole, looking through the Savings Box is a glorious experience. I enjoy the trip down memory lane, and she leaves the afternoon with the glow of accomplishment and love. I'm so glad that her father and I worked so hard on this collection. We're still adding to it, but it's obvious that what we've done so far is wonderful. It's a testament to our love and joy in our child, and sometimes, when you're thirteen, that's as important as it can be.

So, if you haven't already started a Savings Box for your baby, now is the best time to begin. Dig out the trappings that have been saved and gather them together in one place. Toss in the first drawings, the first writing, the preschool or daycare newsletters, clothing, toys, and books. Put in a few pictures, play programs, and beginning music books when they are older. Keep adding to the treasurehouse of memories until the box is so full that nothing more can fit, then start a new box. Keep adding to your collection until your children are grown and gone. And don't pack that box away beyond reach. Keep it somewhere where your child can reach it and look through it from time to time. You'll find it's an excellent source of strength and a wellspring of good feelings that will help your son or daughter through the rough parts of growing up.

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