Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 10, 2002
The gift of family stories
For the past few years, Art and I have gathered family stories and given them, in one form or another, to our family members. They make unique gifts for the holidays or other special occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
For example, after my parents moved to Manhattan from the farm home they had shared for decades, I put together a booklet - "Freeland Family Farms: Memories of nearly a century on two rural Marion County, Kansas farms." A large part of the booklet was letters from family members and friends who shared their recollections. I scoured my photo albums to find pictures to match their memories. The result was a Christmas gift that my parents and other relatives seem to enjoy perusing repeatedly.
Different generations remembered different things about the farms.
One of my uncles wrote:
"I remember my sheep herding days and caring for them during lambing season. Dad could never understand how I could tell him which one to watch when birth was imminent. He could never figure how to pick out the one I had given a name. He always thought that all the sheep looked alike. As I look back, I think he was right."
My older cousin wrote:
"In the 1940s and early '50s, where was the electricity and running water? Who cared? Most assuredly, I didn't. What could be better than a flickering evening oil lamp, pumping well water, bathing in a pan, or searching for spiders before squatting in the outhouse?
"I was provided with a well-worn straw hat, oversize galoshes that nearly always got sucked off by the glutinous barnyard muck, and a large branch to herd Bossy and friends to the barn for milking. This was roughing it - much better than any movie could depict."
My memories revolved around the changing seasons and the family celebrations that took place at the farms:
"Winter meant tying the sled behind the pickup and having Dad pull us along the country roads; making snow angels; having sword fights with icicles; keeping hundreds of baby chicks in one corner of the living room when the warming lights went off in the brooder house; building snow forts . . ."
Even the younger generation pitched in with their memories. Our two daughters wrote about playing with the cats and making "tents" with all the spare sheets and blankets that my parents would allow them to pull out of drawers and closets.
Another family history project was for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday. Art and I put together a booklet which included a time line of her life listing her birth and marriage, the births of her children and grandchildren and other significant events; a list of the presidents and major national and international news in her lifetime; photos; memories of her favorite toys, meals and classes; and vignettes of her life.
On one page, I wrote about her thriftiness.
"Donna is the epitome of those who experienced the Great Depression - demonstrating a frugality that is remarkable in a society where conspicuous consumption has become almost a fine art. Some examples of her thriftiness - some might say cheapness - include: using the only clothes dryer and kitchen stove she ever purchased, saving rubber bands from newspapers, twist ties from bread wrappers and plastic bags from anywhere; using a Handi-Wipe over and over so many times that it has a hole as big as a plate in the middle of it; cooking hamburgers 'you can see through;' reheating stale potato chips in the oven 'to crisp them up;' storing a cranberry bread from 1967 until it was thawed and eaten in the 1990s; buying only a few stamps at a time because she doesn't want 'to invest that much in them;' and, daughter-in-law Gloria's favorite, recycling Christmas paper, ribbon and tags from year to year."
These family stories, wrapped up as gifts, have helped tie our different generations together with laughter, tears and love.
I've noticed how people search stores for just the right gift for some special occasion. To me, there can be no better gift than one that is part of yourself - one that shows some special person or persons how much they've meant to you and what a big part of your life they've been.
This re-used Handi-Wipe is a testament to Donna’s frugality.