A couple of years ago for Christmas, my sister, Whitney, took all my grandmother and grandfather’s love letters and made them into a book.
It was called Letters from Box 54.
There, in print, were all the everyday, the simple, the overlooked and the ordinary of our grandparent’s lives.
But in those moments–shared from letters written long ago with paper and ink, you could catch a glimpse of the overwhelming, incredible, amazing love they shared for each other….
…and see the extraordinary written in every line.
We all loved the book so much that we begged her for more history. “Make a family tree,” we’d say. “History would come alive under your watch,” we’d encourage. “You are the perfect family-treeer. No one could make a family tree like you,” we’d implore.
But to no avail.
She would smile and laugh roll her eyes and shake her head and explain that family trees were a challenge she didn’t really want to take on.
Until this year.
This was the year she took up the challenge.
This was the year she created another piece of history.
But of course it couldn’t be an ordinary tree.
It couldn’t simply be a family tree with lines and names and branches stretching out in every direction.
She wanted to create something a little different.
When planning her project, she took her cue from the letters from Box 54 and created a family tree made up of the ordinary.
The minutes and seconds and hours and days and weeks of our lives.
She went back and found the papers that made each of our families who we are.
Old yearbook pages.
Street maps of where we lived.
She made copies of all those documents and then carefully, sweetly, amazingly, she punched out the delicate letters of every family member’s name from the pages.
There was a K from a high school year book page.
And a D from a graduation certificate.
And on and on and on.
Tiny letters from all those fleeting moments.
And when she was done punching out all our letters, she took them and carefully glued them onto a canvas.
She arranged those delicate letters into a pattern–twisting and forming the trunk and branches and leaves of our family tree….
…each letter representing an hour or a minute or a celebration of our life.
But that wasn’t all.
My wonderful, incredible, creative sister wasn’t done.
She had one more surprise.
Layered into the trees were the most amazing letters of all.
Tiny letters cut out from where it all started.
Where it all began so many years ago.
The notes and sketches and confidences written by our grandparents and sent from Box 54.
The very foundation for our family tree and the beginning….
…of the pages of our lives. 🙂
PS I love you, Whitney.
I want to be you when I grow up.