My grandma’s birthday is next weekend and even though it isn’t a “milestone” year, I wanted to do something a little different — something a little extra special — for her this year. So about four months ago I “gathered” the family through e-mail and proposed the following idea:
Everyone was to send me (1) a favorite photo of themselves with grandma, or a favorite photo of just grandma (like the one my mom picked out, below, depicting my grandma having a beer in Mexico after beating breast cancer) — the photo could be from any time period; and (2) a short note to include with their photo — a favorite memory, a word of encouragement or thanks, thoughts on lessons learned from grandma, etc.
Those were the only guidelines: a photo and a short note (the note didn’t have to match the scene in the photo). I also gave everyone the option of mailing me a sealed, handwritten note to grandma, in case they had something more personal they wanted to write to her that they didn’t necessarily want me (or anyone who may pick up and page through the final product) to read. Those sealed envelopes will be slipped in the back of the book before I mail it out.
My printer has been acting up lately, so the book isn’t completely finished yet (I still have two photos and five notes to print, but they’re all sized and saved and ready to go whenever my printer decides to cooperate again), but I wanted to share a peek at what is finished.
Last summer the kids and I took a trip to Oregon for my dad’s birthday, and my grandma decided to make the trip up from Cali in order *finally* meet my kids — her great grandkids. It’s the only time she’s ever met them, and I’m so thankful that I had a photo of her with each of my kids to include in the book. Briseis already mailed a handwritten birthday note to her, and Emma and Madden are too young to write letters (or remember her, honestly), but Emma wanted to include some artwork, so I included a page colored by her opposite of the photo of grandma with Madden.
I ordered the photos and notes from oldest daughter to youngest (my grandma has four daughters), with each daughter’s children (and in my case, my kids) following. It seemed like the least controversial and most logical way to do it. Separating the two older daughters (and their kids) from the two younger daughters (and their kids) is a full-page, color photo of my grandma with her four daughters, taken in the late 1960s.
No offense or anything, but making a minibook for “an old person” is WAY different than making one for a “not old person”. Cutesie phrases and embellishments don’t really work. So I kept it simple with a few patterned papers (roses are her favorite, so I made sure to include lots of complimentary floral prints), a sheet or two of linen-y paper, vellum, and good ol’ Bazzill card stock. And I am in love with how it’s turning out so far.
The final spread of the book includes a great Emerson quote — “It is not the length of life but the depth of life” — printed on vellum and secured to a handmade linen-y piece of paper with washi tape. The flair on the opposite page says “so blessed”.
I know that Emerson quote is a little weird/morbid to include in a birthday book for an “old” person, but it just felt right. Besides, I’m going to include a little handwritten note in a small envelope underneath it that puts a non-morbid twist on it, by noting how she’s blessed to have lived a life of both length and depth, and that we are all blessed to have been included in her life. And that will tie it all together!
I was so excited when I came up with this idea, and I think it’s a pretty rad one if I do say so myself. So. Feel free to steal this idea and make a similar book for a loved one, be it family member or friend. You could apply to same concept to someone in your life who will graduate high school or college next spring, and include photos and notes from friends and family. Or you can gift this to a parent for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Or to a spouse for Valentine’s Day.
And really, you don’t even need a special occasion to gift this to anyone. Maybe someone in your life just needs a pick-me-up and would fare well from receiving a handmade book of photos of good times and words of praise or encouragement from people who love them. I don’t know. I’m not the boss of your life. But if I were, I’d make you make one of these for someone.
If you do decide to make a similar project, I suggest allowing at least six months for people to gather photos and write their words, with gentle reminders every four to six weeks. Trust me, it will take much longer than you think. But it’s oh so worth it in the end.