Family Keepsakes

By Alisa Brownlee

Keepsakes make us feel connected to each other, our past and the future. Unique, meaningful gifts build closer bonds across generations and give us a fuller understanding of who we are as a family.

A keepsake can evoke powerful emotions, and the meaning is anchored in family stories. All too often, though, the stories behind items are lost, which is why it's important to preserve not only keepsakes, but also the underlying stories.

For families who want to document their keepsakes, technology now offers wonderfully effective ways to maintain the significance and keep the keepsakes alive for generations.  Pinterest and Facebook have pages available to guide you through this process.  Some specialized companies will come to your home, videotape you and your family and produce a quality DVD.  In addition, there are “do it yourself” websites that can help you produce your own video keepsakes.  Many websites have special areas to help children through the process, so everyone can get involved.

Here are some keepsake ideas from the Legacy Project:

  • Start with Story: A Little Something by Susan V. Bosak, with illustrations by Laurie McGaw, is a heartwarming bestseller about love and legacies across generations. The story follows the special keepsakes a grandmother gives her granddaughter through the years. Share this story with young and old – children and grandchildren, mothers and grandmothers. You can also give the book along with a personal keepsake or use it to prompt stories about your own family keepsakes.
  • Cook It Up: A special recipe can become a treasured keepsake. Over the holidays or during a summer family reunion, get the whole family together to learn how to make a family favorite dish. As you're cooking, document the detailed instructions and include a title that ties the recipe to the loved one who prepared it, e.g., “Grandma Ann's Honey Cake.”
  • Hang "Best Memory" Ornaments: During holiday gatherings, ask each person to write their favorite memory of family members from the past year. Brightly decorate the outside of the notes (or write the notes on wrapping paper), roll them up (secured with a small bit of tape), and use gold thread through the center to hang them on the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day, open and read the notes aloud. Collect and save each year's notes in a scrapbook.
  • Make a Family Time Capsule: A family time capsule can become a family tradition. Each year, include items that represent the past year for your family: schoolwork, photos, greeting cards, letters, handwritten family stories, or a video of people sharing memories.  Include anything unique and special to your family. Put all the items in a container, mark it with the year, and store it in a safe place. Each holiday, you can look back on mementoes from past years.

In our technology dependent society, we are often captivated by the latest gadgets, but remembering the real and intangible artifacts of our families can help us connect to our own family history.  Throughout the years, keepsakes become powerful symbols of that connection.

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