11 December 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandma's Boxes

The summer of 1993 marked a dramatic ending to a work of love for my Grandma Christensen. (Read that story here.) My sister Beth and I had embarked upon a project to organize our Christensen/Johnson family history. Grandma, aging fast, was so invested in what we were doing that she asked us to make a hundred copies of the book to give to her posterity for the coming Christmas season. But as we prepared to travel through a late July night to her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, we knew we couldn't wait until the heat of the summer had turned into December. Our grandma passed away within days after we delivered "the book." It was distributed at the family luncheon that followed her funeral.

One of the "boxes" in the boxes
But that was only the beginning. More inspiration came on the 15th of November in 2003, over ten years after Grandma's death. In her family, our branch (our mother Anne had died years earlier) was known for our interest in family lore. Our uncles, aunts and cousins who lived in Las Vegas cleaned out Grandma's home and divided her possessions. But when the eight boxes of memorabilia went unclaimed after her death, they ended up in my sister Adele's storeroom in Orem, Utah.

Sister Annalee and I reading and sorting
Now, ten years later, Adele had called several of us sisters who lived nearby to a family meeting to discuss "Grandma's boxes." The plan was to sort through them and organize or discard the old news clippings, letters, photos of distant relatives, funeral programs for our great-aunts and uncles, etc. We opened the first box and the smell of Grandma's house wafted out. I closed my eyes and I was back in her home, hearing her voice giving us instruction and caution. I felt the call to publish another book, better, more complete, hardbound, about the life of our grandparents, their children, their ancestors and their family history. Did I say one more book? Maybe there would be more than one.

Grandma had lived through important world events, two World Wars, the Great Depression, life on a farm in Idaho and then the growth of the Las Vegas metropolis where her family was a force to be reckoned with. But the numerous photos and newspaper clippings dealt with those events only as they touched the people she loved. Candy boxes and stationery boxes were filled with letters and cards from these folks. We spread the treasures out in piles on Adele's ping pong table and still there was more. What a fun day that was! And nearly overwhelming.

Sister Melanie working
These ten boxes grew into three 800 page books about Grandma and Grandpa's loved ones and their ancestry. The project took nearly six years to complete with several of my sisters and cousins adding their work. Old papers, photos, letters and clippings had been stuffed into boxes marked for recycling unless "Anne's girls" wanted to go through them. Indeed a treasure and a blessing, for us and for posterity.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome. And what a good memory and great sense of accomplishment.