When dad was approaching his 80th birthday, I wanted to throw him a big party. The problem with that was that I lived 3000 miles away. I was working full-time and couldn’t figure out how to organize a party from such a distance.
Finally I read something that gave me an idea. I would throw a party by mail! I asked mom for the names and addresses of all dad’s friends from work (now retired of course) as well as all the cousins he kept up with and his immediate family if I didn’t already have those. Then I put together a letter (on my computer so I could print multiple copies) on fancy party paper.
I invited each person addressed to help dad celebrate his 80th birthday by sending a card, a picture, and to describe a memory of a special time with dad or his family. I told them the date of dad’s birthday and that this was to be a surprise.
Some of dad’s cousins didn’t notice that it was a month early and began sending cards, pictures and memories right away. Within a week or two dad had already gotten several cards with notes saying: “I remember when we were kids we did …”. At first dad didn’t know what to make of it. Then he told mom that this must be my doing as I was involved in family history for a long time already.
Naturally, I wrote about my own memories and attached pictures of dad with my family. In addition, I purchased a special loose-leaf binder with plastic inserts in the front and back covers as well as the spine. I bought archival letter sized sleeves to go in the notebook as well as some photo pages. I used my computer software to create a cover and end page about Dad’s Special Memories for his 80th Birthday.
Dad then was able to collect all of the cards, letters and photographs that he received in the mail and put them together in this special loose-leaf binder. He got the most wonderful long letter from his brother, several similar letters from several cousins, his former work colleagues and lots and lots of pictures from the old days. The whole family enjoyed looking through dad’s Birthday Memory Book.
Dad sent a nice letter to all his friends and relatives thanking them for their memories for his “Party by Mail” and stated that he would save his Memory Book to look at “When I get old”. I thought that was precious because at 80, I considered he already WAS old!
However, now dad is almost 95 and has Alzheimer’s Disease. He can look back on these memories and they help him to remember his working years as well as the fun and pranks of his youth.
Several years later I arranged for a similar “Party by Mail” for mom. Of course, she quickly figured out what was happening as she remembered what I had done for dad. Thus both mom and dad had nice memory books written by their friends and relatives.
Long after mom and dad are gone, the rest of our family will still enjoy reading their memory books and hearing stories of events that happened before we were born or when we were very young.
Now in more modern times, one can create online memory books with digital pictures. But in order to have even the most elderly friends and family members participate, I still think a notebook like this is more convenient than a digital book. Once the cards, letters and photographs are received, however, it would then be possible to scan them all and create a Shutterfly book or something similar so that copies could be made for other family members. In fact, after mom passed away, I made a Shutterfly book copy of her 80th Birthday Memory Book so dad could look through that while I kept the much larger original safe for him. I also made copies for myself and put it online so my family could make copies as well.
I believe this concept would work for many milestone occasions, even when the family is able to meet in a central location for an actual party. It would still make a nice memento to have each person bring a favorite photo and/or story about fun times they had together and to keep these all together into a memory book.
This concept would also work for groups that want to create a memory book of an event such as a camp memory book or a class memory book. If each member contributes a photograph and a short paragraph of their memories they would have a book that all could share by scanning it.