I've been thinking about my grandmother lately, as March is the month of her birth. This amazing woman, born just after the turn of the last century, lived to celebrate her 100th birthday and passed away just a few months later in 2006.
As a birthday present for her milestone, I made a little book for her, which I brought with me when I went back East for her birthday party.
Although she was very appreciative, the exercise of making this book may have done more for me than for her. The flood of memories of my grandmother's contributions to my life and the lives of others - her many little kindnesses, wisdom, and endless meals - sharpened my desire to be a better person. (I'm still working on that one....)
Once I decided to do a book, I was surprised at how quickly these memories came to me. I sat down with a folder full of photographs and began to brainstorm everything I could think of. Since she was turning one hundred years old, I wondered if I could recall a hundred things for which to thank her. I could, and did. Easily.
The topics ranged from "thanks for giving birth to my dad" to "thank you for teaching me to never put jars on the table straight from the refrigerator" to "thank you for always waving goodbye from the porch, usually with tears."
After coming up with my list of "thank yous" at random, I began to look through the photos to see which ones might relate to items on the list.
Then it was a matter of putting the photos together with the "one hundred thanks."
For example, I put the above photo on a page with the following:
"Thank you for reading to me as a child...
and for helping me to see the value of education.
Thank you for giving me what became my favorite books: the Chronicles of Narnia
Thank you for lending me so many books in college.
Thank you for correcting my grammar."
All in all, I was able to put this book together in the lesser part of a weekend, and it was a delightful experience. I didn't have a big narrative to write, and I didn't have to put my "thank yous" in any certain order. I just put my thoughts together with a few photos and it was done.
I hope it gave my grandmother joy. Looking at the book now, it gives me immense pleasure to think about her, and reminds me of a few things I've forgotten since.