My daughters’ have a book of Aesop Fables. Their grandparents gave it to them. It is a pop-up book and each page the characters come alive. The tortoise creeps by the unaware sleeping hare. The fox chomps on the curious crab and on the last page there are instructions to create your own story. There is a spinning wheel with animals to become characters, the beard of old Aesop slides down to give a list of morals and the reader is given the charge to be the story teller. Creatively weaving the animals into hijinks that will lead to the certainty of one of them learning the moral, my girls love being story tellers.
I find myself thinking about us, moms, being not just story tellers for our kids but story keepers. There are many early experiences that our kids won’t remember. Whether it be their first steps or their first holiday concert at school, we work so hard to capture these moments for them.
My youngest daughter loves to hear stories about when she was a baby. She asks, “Mom, what was my first word?”. Then she’ll ask, “Mom, what foods did I eat back then?”. “Mom, what was my second word?”. I am surprised by how many things I have forgotten too. While I try to remember everything, I don’t remember the girls’ seventh word or the ninth thing they loved to eat (my youngest is very into ranking things,). But I do remember that astounded glance I shared with my husband when they did something remarkable. I remember sometimes desperately attempting to capture them on digital devices like video cameras or cell phones. But other times, reminding myself to secretly store that moment into my own trunk of memories, hoping to hold on to it for years to come.
After the holidays, each year, I grasp for ways to store their stories. I always pledge to do better in the year to come. Here are our top 5 ways we have chronicled our memories, and we hope they last a lifetime.
When my oldest daughter was just born, I started the tradition of making calendars for the grandparents. The first year, we staged photographs for each month for the calendar because she was born in September. We dressed her in red and gave her flowers to hold for Valentine’s day, we put in an actual flower costume for spring, and a cute bathing suit for summer. It was a really fun labor of love that first year, as a first-time mom. New grandparents loved them just as much we did making it.
For following year, we had a natural archive of all the things we did, mostly how she changed and developed each new month. It worked out well because I could easily plop photos in based on the months I had taken them the previous year. Once my second daughter came into the picture, we had a keepsake tradition in place that her milestones could easily become a part of as well. These were such a huge success, that we have expanded to include a couple of Aunts as calendar recipients as well. I simply snap a few extra photos of cousins along the year and include them prominently in the calendar. This serves to check off a holiday gift from the list as well when the time comes.
As a working mom of two, My Social Book was a revolutionary innovation for me. For years, I would work tirelessly into the dark, late nights to make scrapbooks for my girls and important events in our lives. Containers, folders, and desks full of little stickers, scissors and glue sticks littered my house. But as they got older, things got busier and not even the handy digital photobooks seemed to be attainable.
Two years ago, I did the radical thing and clicked on an ad on the margin of my Facebook page and to my delightful surprise, I found My Social Book. This website will take photos from your social media pages and put it into a physical book for you. You set the date parameters and select your specifications and like magic, a book is created. For me this was such an exquisite idea because I loved looking at my childhood albums of photographs and my parents’ photographs as well. To have a book that chronicled for me my children’s childhood was a lifesaver. Now, I will post pictures on social media just for this reason, even when I don’t have the time to check other things out, which makes distant relatives happy, and helps me at the end of the year to create a book of our memories.
Long before we had kids, my husband and I would collect ornaments when we traveled together throughout the year. We just continued to do this with our kiddos. With a sharpie marker, I write the year, most often the ornament will explicitly remind us of where we went, but if for some reason it doesn’t, I write it on there too. It brings us tremendous joy each year to unpack these and decorate the tree together. We talk about our trips together and it just adds depth and richness for us during the holiday to reminisce. Sometimes the trips are just close by, like the Apollo Beach manatee viewing station and sometimes they are a little further away but the memory of the time together is what is really important.
It may seem that we are ornament nuts at our house, and there is some truth to that for sure. The first year we were a family of four we dressed up like characters from the Wizard of Oz. By luck alone it was the year that the movie was celebrating its 75th anniversary and my sweet father in law gave us a Hallmark ornament to commemorate our Halloween dress. Since then, each year we find an ornament to remember the kids’ costumes. Last year, it was Alice in Wonderland, we were the Justice League one year, and this year the crew from Peter Pan. I also jot the year on the bottom of these too.
I love receiving the cards from our family and friends for each special event of the year. And I love to keep them. I keep birthday cards given to the girls by their grandparents and by us each year. I love seeing the inscriptions years later. We can’t keep every single one, just some that are extra special that year, and usually I put them in a photo box that you can pick up at just about any craft store. One box will hold a lot and now that my oldest has started to read, she loves looking at the thoughtfulness of her friends or pictures of her cousins when they were little during the holidays.
We are all storytellers, in our own ways for most of the seasons of our lives. We are the architects of our own journeys and archivers of memories, for ourselves and our kids. I hope this year you find a way to keep these close.