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Friday, December 11, 2009

Countdown to Christmas with a Memory Tree


Hello and welcome to Day 11 in my Countdown to Christmas blog! I hope those of you who have lost loved ones will consider this. It is truly beyond special and a wonderful way of remembering our loved ones who have left footprints on our hearts. Enjoy.

“Death is so final,” I said to my aunt after a family member’s funeral. “If only there was something we could do to keep the memories from fading.”
“There is,” Aunt Sis sniffed, daintily dabbing her nose into her crumpled tissue. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

I followed my Irish aunt through the foyer of her Victorian home, heels clicking rhythmically. She pointed at a plaque on the wall. Pieces of jewelry glittered on a black velvet canvas.
“That’s lovely,” I said, stepping closer to get abetter look. “Where’d you get it? At some antique shop in town?”

“I made it,” Aunt Sis said, a twinkle coming into her blue eyes. “Out of family jewels. See, take a closer look.”

I studied the plaque, fascinated by its uniqueness. The wall d├ęcor was in the shape of a Christmas tree, showcasing a menagerie of shimmering jewels.
“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” I said, awed by the hodgepodge of earrings, broached pins, pendants and strings of pearls giving it a regal appeal. It was stunning, something straight out of a decorator’s dream catalogue.

“Now that’s my family tree,” my aunt said, blue eyes peering through wire rim glasses. “Every piece of jewelry on that tree was a gift from one of my nieces or loved one. Just think of all the pretty earrings you lose, leaving ya with a single mate. And what about when your favorite broached clip or pin breaks? Rather than tossin’ them aside in a drawer where they’d just collect dust, I decided to mount them on a plaque. That way, I can always hold the memory of the gift near and dear to me heart.”

The melodic lilt in my aunt’s voice floated through the foyer as smooth as piano keys. Something pulled at my heart strings when I spotted a pretty pink rose earring on the tree, its rhinestone nectar glistening like diamonds amides the pretty pink petals. I traced my finger over the earring, the memory of all those years ago fluttering across my mind with feather-like softness. Emotions caught in my throat. “I bought you those earrings for your birthday when I was just a little girl. I remember thinking how happy they’d make you because they were your favorite color and because of your love of roses.”

Tears pooled in my aunt’s eyes. “And sentimental fool I am, when I lost one, I just couldn’t bear to throw away the memory. So you see what I mean. I’ve glued the pieces of my heart on a wall plaque to capture the moment in time. See here,” she gestured to a star glittering on top of the tree. “Aunt Lane gave me that broached when I was a little girl. Now I always have a treasured keepsake of the Christmas I spent with her.”

“What a lovely idea,” I said. “And look at these pearls, strategically hung to give the illusion of strung popcorn. Amazing.”

“And it can be in whatever shape you choose,” my aunt went on, lowering her voice to barely more than a whisper. “When the time is right, I’ll mount all the jewelry my dearly departed Don gave me in the shape of a heart.” She sighed wistfully. “That way, both his presents and presence will be with me, keeping the memory of the special occasion alive. By mounting those precious keepsakes, I’ll be preserving a piece of me heart.”

“How sweet,” I said, sentiments clogging my throat. “So how do I go about making one of these keepsakes?”

“That’s easy,” Aunt Sis said, puffing out her chest. “Go home and go through your jewelry box, old shoe boxes, drawers. Then see what your mother has. You’d be surprised what she kept from your childhood, and each memory will jog an otherwise forgotten memory. Come on and I’ll brew some tea and tell ya all about it.”

And over raspberry tea and Irish soda bread, my aunt filled me in on the makings of a memory tree.

“So once you have all your jewels and gems lined up, just get yourself some Tacky glue, a canvas, a piece of velvet and a pattern. Say you decide to make a sweetheart tree. First ya glue the velvet on the canvas and let it dry completely, a day or so. Then trace the pattern on the velvet and go wild. And then let it dry a day or so before framing it. And then you’ll be ready to hang your memory tree, something to cherish for years to come. You’ll see. Go on, get creative.”

Aunt Sis was right. After going on a scavenger hunt through my drawers, jewelry boxes and a thorough closet cleaning, I found enough jewelry to make my own memory tree. My mom gave me some of the gems I’d given to her over the years, broken but not forgotten trinkets, each near and dear to my heart. And true to my aunt’s words, every time I glued another jewel to the tree, I attached a cherished keepsake. And before I knew it, my memory tree was bursting at the seams.

My aunt passed away, but her spirit lingers. And because Aunt Sis taught me how to capture a moment in time, she will always be with me in spirit. Every time someone becomes enthralled with my tree, I can still hear her melodious laughter, the Irish lilt in her voice when she regaled family stories. But mostly, I remember a time when she walked with me on this earth, leaving lasting footprints on my heart.

15 comments:

Linda Swift said...

What a beautiful story, Sharon. And I love that you called her "Aunt Sis." I suppose your mother called her "Sis." Or "Sister." And what a beautiful way to remember people and times of special joy and gifts that have sentimental value to us. Happy day to all, Linda

Emma Lai said...

Wow, how beautiful! You gave me goosebumps! And, what a lovely idea. Now, your aunt lingers on in a different way.

Sharon Donovan said...

Thanks, Linda. Actually, she was my dad's older sister, sixteen years his senior. Their family split up when they were children, dear old daddy being a drunk and his mother dying when my dad was four. So The younger brothers all depended on her until they went their separate ways. So as a result, as kids, we all thought of Aunt Sis as our grandmother on my dad's side. The brothers all called her Sis and it stuck. Her husband was the only one I ever heard call her by her given name, Elizabeth, Betty for short...

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Emma, yes a lovely memory indeed. If you are the least creative and I know you are, it is really quite simple to make. It might even be a nice thing to do for your new son. Maybe not jewelry, but little buttons and things in the shape of a heart, things you can treasure in time...

Emma Lai said...

Thanks for the lovely idea, Sharon!

Hywela Lyn said...

What a lovely, sweet story, Sharon. I had an Aunt like that, who cared for my sister and myself after our mother died. (Her name was Betty too, and my Aunt was Grace, but my father always called her Sis. I have bits and pieces of her jewellery, brooches without a pin and odd earings, as well as stuff of my own, I'll have to see about making a tree like that, woderful idea, thanks so much for sharing.

Sharon Donovan said...

You are quite welcome, Emma. It just occurred to me that with a new son, wouldn't it be nice to make a keepsake of tid bits from each year. And it could be in the shape of a teddy bear, even. The creative muse will kick in, you watch and see!

Sharon Donovan said...

Lyn, we do have a lot in common, huh? Soul sisters. What a lovely coincidence about the names Sis and Betty. Gives me goose bumps. And I'm sure you would love making a keepsake and if I know you, it'll be in the shape of a horse head.

Mary Ricksen said...

Wow what a wonderful memory Sharon. You touched my heart with that one. Come to think of it, everything you write seems to touch me.
I don't have any jewelry, even mismatched, but maybe I can do it with pictures!

Sharon Donovan said...

Mary, what a lovely compliment. Thank you so much. And what a lovely idea, a memory tree of loved ones with pictures. And I think in the shape of a heart. Very nice indeed.

Julie Robinson said...

That is a beautiful way to make a memory! And it's true, earrings get lost, but you can't bear to throw the single mate away.

I know for my son, I'd like to make him a quilt with all the old t-shirts he loved from our many library trips together, among other things. However, I am not good at arts and crafts, or with a needle, so I may hire someone to do it, as soon as I get all the shirts together. Now I regret giving some away!

Judy said...

That is a fantastic story!! It is a very good idea. I will have to check in my jewelry boxes and in some of mother's things. It would be nice to hand down to my daughter.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Julie. What a fantastic and creative idea for your son, a quilt of many colors as it were. What a shame when you think about it, how many little tid bits we give away when we can make them into a treasured keepsake. And the sentimental rewards are invaluable. Hope you get the quilt going. Must let me know.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Judy. I can assure you, when you go on a quest for odd jewelry, you will find more than you need! I wound up with so much and it was so much fun, the best arts and craft project ever. You watch and see what you find. And, yes, what a nice keepsake to hand down to your daughter. Let me know how it goes.

Mona Risk said...

Sharon what a beautiful story. Making a Christmas tree plaque out of old jewelry is a great idea I may try someday.