Keepsake by Marilyn Koop is a must-have for your library. A friend gave me a copy the other day and I’ve been totally captivated by it. Each page contains a photograph of time-worn hands cradling a loved keepsake. On the page opposite is a cameo history of the person, a brief story behind the keepsake, and words of advice. There are twenty portraits in the collection. All save two were of people living at the Wellington Terrace, an assisted care residence near Fergus, Ontario.
"This little cup and saucer was given to me by my great-grandmother on my second birthday when we were still in England. My mother used to threaten me: "What might happen to your little cup and saucer if you don't behave?" Winifred Banbury
Marlene Creates, a Newfoundland environmental artist and poet has written of the book:
When objects are keepsakes, they relate most to our hands and our sense of touch. In Marilyn Koop’s photographs, hands are as eloquent as faces. On first glance, many of the cherished objects being held by these elderly people seem quite modest … But on reading these elders’ stories, it turns out that…[these keepsakes] are important not because of their monetary value but because of their history and meaning. I am struck by the profound human caring and gratitude in these stories. The keepsakes are stand-ins for lost loved ones and times past. Through Marilyn Koop’s photographs and the brief life stories she has gathered, we are given the real value of these keepsakes.
"Henry carved this bar of soap on our honeymoon night in Niagara Falls." Agnes Koop
As a personal historian, I see a number of ways Keepsake can be of value:
- a gift for special clients
- in workshops as an example of creative story telling
- to awaken care facility administrators to the potential of life story projects with their own residents
- a source for reflection on aging, keepsakes, and remembrance
Contact Marilyn Koop directly at: email@example.com
Price: Cdn $24.00 includes postage and handling.
Images by permission of Marilyn Koop Copyright 2009
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This past week I’ve been reminded how much our treasured possessions are a window into the stories of our life. My frail, ninety-one year old mother has started to go through her modest collection of jewelry. She’s carefully trying to match each piece with a relative or friend she thinks would appreciate having it after she has died. As I was sitting with her, she began telling me the stories behind each piece. There are the art deco black-and-white earrings she bought to go with a very fashionable dress my father got her shortly after they were married. A silver bracelet brought back by my dad from Pakistan during WWII is tarnished but her memories of my dad’s war experiences remain vivid. Each piece unlocks a story in my mother’s life.
And then there was a colleague at Victoria Hospice who told me of a unique funeral celebration he attended. A friend of the deceased gave a eulogy that was built entirely around photos of the shoes in the woman’s life. Each pair of shoes had a story to tell.
In The Globe and Mail newspaper on Thursday, I read an essay entitled Family Ties. It tells the story of a son’s remembrance of his father through the neckties that were passed down to him. Here’s an excerpt:
The other day I was getting ready for work and went into my closet to get a tie…I reached for a brown-, blue- and white-striped tie and I remembered that it was one of my father’s. He died last year and shortly afterward my mother, who was almost 80, made the decision to sell the big house we all grew up in. It took her a while, but she finally tackled the job of cleaning out my father’s closets… My father had a lot of ties – dozens and dozens and dozens of them…. And so, on this morning, I found myself knotting my father’s tie, remembering how we stood in front of the mirror years ago, him teaching me how to get a half-Windsor just right. I smiled, knowing I might be the only person in the building that day with a tie on.
Another interesting use of objects to tell a story appeared on the NPR website. Entitled A Catalog — Literally — Of Broken Dreams, it reviews the book Important Artifacts by New York Times op-ed page art director Leanne Shapton. The NPR article points out:
Foregoing narrative entirely, Shapton tells the story of a couple’s relationship in the form of a staggeringly precise ersatz auction catalog that annotates the common detritus of a love affair — notes, CD mixes, e-mails, photos, books— and places the objects up for sale…. In choosing the conceit of an auction catalog, Shapton reminds us that the story of love can be told through the things we leave behind, but also by the condition in which we leave them.
All of this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be interesting to do a memoir or life story built around the special things someone possesses? Something to keep in mind. Have you already done something like this? Love to hear from you if you have.
Photo by Kylie
Posted in Life stories, Memoirs, Personal historian, Tips
Tagged family keepsake, favorite things, memoir, Personal historian, personal histories, preserving, reflection, stories
Photo by Patrick Kennedy
Your family memoir doesn’t have to be traditional book or video. It can be a cookbook that you design and fill with favorite family recipes, photographs and related stories. The folks at Heritage Cookbook have created a wonderful site that lets you easily create a family keepsake.
This is what Susan, the creator of Heritage Cookbook.com, has to say,
We are proud to help you produce beautiful cookbooks. We care about how your project turns out because we want you to be proud of what you make. Over the years many of the people who have made cookbooks with us have become good friends.
Because1. We are a company built on personal service. We love to help you if you need it: we are happy to answer your email inquiries and we don’t even mind picking up the phone. It’s a great way to meet you and hear about your project!
2. We don’t charge extra for pictures.
3. You may order as few as 4 books – in B&W or color.
4. Your books are printed in 10-15 business days then add a week for shipping.