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Gift That Keeps on Giving
Imagine, if you will, walking into a darkened room. You jump when you hear a broken guitar burst spontaneously into song. You spot a doll watching you from across the room with its one good eye. The Barbie with the torn-off leg jabs you in the foot as you try to cross a graveyard of toys. What is this horrifying place? It’s the remnants of birthdays and Christmases past; the toys that fell out of favor or that couldn’t handle the realities of toddler playtime.
Rather than contributing more to this vast wasteland of toys this Christmas, (because let’s face it, the holiday marketing will begin in another week or two), how about shaking it up? How about giving the gift that keeps on giving-the gift of family history, with personal stories that will make it complete?
And just what does that rambling paragraph mean? It means that I don’t care who you are, you have stories to tell–great stories that are unique to you. It means that tomorrow or in fifty-plus years, you will be gone, and there will be no one else to tell your stories.
Case in point–my grandfather was in World War II. He used to tell this fabulous story about how he and his friends carried around a bottle of champagne to open together when the war was over. Of course, all of them weren’t there when it was over, but they did open it. And they all shared a laugh when they realized that the champagne had gone completely flat. I don’t remember the specifics of the story, but I do know that I should have had him write it down.
I also have a ring my grandfather got while he was in Italy during the war. He gave it to me for my high school graduation. Its finish is fading, and it’s, no doubt, worth next to nothing…except to me. It was the most precious gift he could have given me. What I didn’t know at the time was that the day would come when the story behind the ring would be even more precious. Where did he get it? When did he get it? I’ll never know…
I am also old enough now to understand the value of family health histories. We all know the big details–who died of cancer or who had a major health issue. But, do you know the smaller details are also important, too? Do you know when your mom started menopause, or whether or not your dad had glaucoma? Maybe your grandma and grandpa died suddenly in an accident–you might know that story, but not that they both had heart disease. These details are important in our lives–and to our lives, for that matter–and that information can one day be invaluable. Sadly, however, we don’t often talk about this vital information with older generations, nor do we, in turn, pass it on to our kids. And if we do talk about it, we don’t write it down.
So the next time there is a birthday or holiday for a child in your life, consider giving a gift that doesn’t wind up in the toy wasteland. Consider giving a gift that keeps on giving. Take an empty journal and start filling it. Fill it with stories and photographs. Fill it with serious family history. Fill it with trivial details that will make future generations laugh, or cry, or know a little bit about the person in the pictures. Fill it with health histories that may or may not prove to be important later. Kids may not appreciate it when they are young, but there will come a time when it will be far more valuable than any legless Barbie or broken down truck. Write these things down now. No matter how old or young, the one thing we all seem to know about life is that it is uncertain. And just like that giant piece of chocolate cheesecake you inhaled last week that seemed so wonderfully expansive at first glance, it goes faster than you think, and is gone before you know it.
Shannon Hembree is a mom of three, and the co-founder of Mamas Against Drama. You can read more of Shannon’s blogs at Mamas Against Drama.