The Blog

The perfect day to write a real letter

This Wednesday, December 7th, 2011, is a special day for me. It’s not a birthday or an anniversary. It’s a holiday that many people don’t know about: National Letter Writing Day.

When was the last time you sat down to write a letter to someone? No, not an email. A real letter. With a pen and paper.

I’m a big fan of letter writing and thankfully so was my maternal grandmother. In fact, between 1971 and the year 2000, we wrote 491 letters to each other.  I have every letter that my grandmother wrote to me. In 2002, my grandmother returned all of the letters that I had written to her.

Some letters were typed but many were handwritten.  They were written on onion skin paper of various sizes, on prepaid U.S. Postal Service areograms (now non-existent), and some on hotel stationery.

Last month, I opened the box that contained all the letters, and started reading. What a powerful experience.  The letters reminded me of many events in my life that had been long forgotten.  Special friendships, travel experiences, joys and heartaches — they were all there.  Through the thoughts and words written in those letters, I could actually see myself maturing as a young adult, married woman, and mother of two.  I’ve even shown some to my daughter, who’s learned things about her mother she never knew before reading the letters. These letters have become a priceless possession for our family.

In this age of instant communication– whether it be texting or emailing– I’d like to recommend the value of putting pen to paper and writing to loved ones and friends. Dedicate a quiet, reflective moment and write about your life experiences and the lessons you have learned.  You never know your written words may one day be deemed a precious gift for the recipient, and for future generations of eager readers.

The Thanksgiving Feast: Food, family, and the future

Thanksgiving brings back plenty of fond memories: visiting with family, watching the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning, and playing football in the afternoon. And of course, everyone’s favorite:  eating the meal of all meals.  We all have our favorites – whether it is a honey roasted spiral cut ham or a Butterball Turkey.  Undoubtedly there will be a myriad of other dishes on the table as well.

Some of my favorites are my mother’s creamed pearl onions. Heavenly! It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving unless those creamed onions were there at our feast. My two daughters wouldn’t be happy unless I have made my sweet potato casserole and huge tray of stuffed deviled eggs. My husband has a favorite, too. There must be a platter of asparagus with Hollandaise sauce on his side of the Thanksgiving table.

Did your mother or grandmother have special recipes that were unique to them? Here’s a sweet-tasting thought: Thanksgiving is a great time to put together a cookbook of family heirloom recipes so that these special delights will never be missing from your family’s Thanksgiving table.

Here’s mine, Lin’s Sweet Potato Casserole:
Cut six medium sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled, in ½-inch slices. Layer potatoes in buttered  1 ½ quart casserole with ¾ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ cup butter, ending with sugar and butter.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees about 30 minutes or till glazed.  Add ½ cup miniature marshmallows last five minutes; brown lightly.  Serves 6.

If you make it, let us know how it turns out.  Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Reel Tributes!

Tracing My Treasures: A Measure of Love

How do you measure love? Is it felt by the intensity of a hug, the passion of a kiss, the size of a box of chocolates or the number of rose stems in a bouquet?

Today, I measure love with a tin-measuring cup.

For years upon years my Tennessee grandmother whipped up homemade biscuits served with red eye gravy, eggs, bacon for her family.  I was fortunate enough to be part of many of those special family breakfasts.

I would watch my petite Southern grandmother measure out the flour, salt, baking powder, milk, and shortening using the very same old measuring cup and measuring spoons that she had used for decades.   Once everything was in the mixing bowl, she would give a little stir, and then pour out the ingredients on to a breadboard. After kneading it a little, the dough was placed into an black and worn cast iron skillet.  Into the oven it would go until the biscuits were baked light brown and to perfection.

The butter and cloverleaf honey were already out when those hot-out-of-the-oven biscuits were placed in the center of the kitchen table for the family to enjoy.

So much love and attention went into this early morning ritual.

After grandmother died, her sons asked me what of her possessions I would like to have.  Without hesitation, I asked, ‘Could I possibly have her set of kitchen measuring spoons and her measuring cup?’  I’m sure they thought ‘what a crazy woman to be asking for such mundane things!’

But the deeper truth is that by holding in my hands these simple objects, I remember a woman who was a special part of my life for so many years.

A tin measuring cup and a set of measuring spoons.  Symbols of love.

What treasured family heirlooms do you possess? What memories do these items stir up inside of you? We’d love to hear from you!

Tracing My Treasures: Perky, the 107-year old Bear

In the fall of 1999, my grandmother Frances Mackin came to visit us. She was 97 years old. In her suitcase was a special treat: her cherished childhood toy, Perky.  Her desire had always been to give Perky to her first great granddaughter. She was about to turn this desire into a reality.

On the day Perky was bestowed to Frances’ Great Granddaughter, Annie, she told our family the story of how she had originally acquired Perky. Annie listened in awe.

In 1904, Frances’ parents, Fred Henry and Amelia Meyer, traveled from Sturgis, SD to attend the St. Louis World’s Fair.  While at the fair they saw Richard Steiff and his aunt selling stuffed bears. They decided to purchase one of the little mohair bears as a gift for their two-year-old little daughter. They had no idea that Steiff would go on to become a world-famous toymaker.

As she continued to speak, Frances reflected back that she must have dearly loved Perky because she hardly ever played with him.  And when she did, she handled him with extreme care.  It is obvious that this is true because over one hundred years later, Perky shows very few signs of damage that might otherwise have been seen in a child’s stuffed animal.

Perky is about one foot high with soft, light brown mohair fur, black shoe button eyes and is filled from the top of his ears to the bottom of his feet with something similar to straw called excelsior.  He has beige felt paws and a hand-sewn brown thread nose.  He also has a small squeaker that allows him to make little chirps when the middle of his tummy is gently pressed. That was quite the technological breakthrough back in 1904!

But in my opinion, the sweetest thing about Perky is his indomitable smile! That smile has stayed firm for 107 years now.

Chapter Two: 2011 

In fact, Perky’s smile seems to be even bigger these days. A new chapter in Perky’s long life has begun. Annie is now all grown up and has become a mommy herself.  Annie decided that her one and only daughter, Emily, age three and a half, should now take possession of Perky. Who else could love a stuffed bear with such a history?

I have no doubt that Perky will continue to get the love and attention that he’s gotten for so many years. Together, Emily and Perky will create their own stories and make their own memories.

There are many things that bond children, their parents, and their grandparents. If Fred and Amelia could only see how their small purchase in 1904 continues to connect our family 107 years later. Perky isn’t just a little bear. He’s a symbol of love, continuity, and stability for four generations. What a treat.

What is your family heirloom story? Who are the people through the years in your family who have cherished a particular family keepsake?

Tell us all about how you came to possess your family heirloom. We’d love to hear from you.