When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, over 25 years ago I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I wanted to give her something very special to mark the occasion. When I had graduated high school more than 2 decades before that, mom and dad gave me a portable typewriter to take away to college.
Now at this point when my oldest daughter was graduating, I was a graduate student and single parent with 3 more children still in school. What could I AFFORD to give her as a graduation gift? I had lots of ideas on good graduation gifts, but none seemed to be affordable. I wanted to give her something really special.
I thought about this months before she graduated and that was a good thing. For suddenly in the night the idea came to me. I would give her something so unique that no one else would duplicate this graduation gift. I had something the rest of the family didn’t have. I had the accordion file full of school memories. I also had a drawer full of more memories.
Over the years ever since my daughter started kindergarten I had saved the best or most memorable of her school papers, stories, pictures and projects. I decided to create a book of memories using these papers.
I purchased a plastic covered loose-leaf book with pockets in the front and back. I sat down while the children were all in school and looked through 13 years worth of memories. I chose those that I thought would mean the most to my daughter and of course, those that made me smile and remember good times in the past.
She had written a story about opening the refrigerator and finding a talking lemon. That would go in her book. She had school pictures with retakes when she got her braces removed. Those would go in there. She had papers and pictures with teachers’ comments on how outstanding they were. Once I went through her file of memorable material, I had to work hard to reduce it down to a quantity that would fit into her new school memory book.
I was very pleased with this project as it developed and was sure she would be happy with it too. I still felt sad that I couldn’t afford to buy her something expensive for all her efforts in school. But I knew this would be something to keep and treasure. As I expected, my daughter loved her memory book. Her siblings all wanted to look through it too as did her other relatives at her graduation party.
I knew I had created a special memory when my other children told me that they also “expected” to get a memory book for graduation similar to the one their older sister had received. Over the next 5 years as the rest of the children reached graduation age they asked me to give them some hints on what would be in their books. I told them it was to be a surprise and they would find out when they graduated.
One thing I can tell you for sure – my son found that picture from grade school [See Grandpa My Mom’s going to Kill Me!] in his book. The children all took their books with them when they went off to college. I noticed they showed these memory books to significant others in their lives and then to future spouses.
Now this was a long time ago and I might be tempted to do it different now. Today if I were to make such a book, I could scan some of the very oversized pictures or bulky items (like that stuffed kitty her grandmother had made her) that didn’t fit easily into the photo protective pages. But, I think having the exact papers that they wrote or drew on made the books special. And even though I might be tempted to make a whole scanned book from the items, I think the original with the wrinkles and stains holds the most meaning.
So I would offer this as a suggestion for parents or grandparents now as you think about something special to mark a high school graduation or other special accomplishment. It isn’t expensive but it takes months or years of saving special items in order to pull it off. The best part was the element of surprise, though that only worked for my first daughter. Each of her siblings had an expectation of a similar surprise and they were not disappointed.