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 everyday.

The simple.

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.

Newspaper clippings.

Street maps of where we lived.

Marriage certificates.

Graduation certificates.

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.

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  1. Image for Dianne Bell Dianne Bell

    What a wonderful sister you have in Whitney! What she's created is LOVE. Delicate, every heart beat, soul unending Love. What a treasure She is. Blessings. ❤

  2. Image for Barbara Moore Barbara Moore

    Wow. Just wow. I tried to think of something cute to say now. But nothing can come close to how I feel. Just wow. It says it all.

  3. Image for Loryl Loryl

    How fabulous for you and your family. What wonderful creative people you are. My Mom always loved getting something made by our own hands. It has a piece of the giver in it.

  4. Image for Basia Minta Basia Minta

    What a perfect way to show love for your family and the history that comes with it. I can tell you adore your family so much and that everyone in your family loves each other. Great project idea!

  5. Image for Nan, Odessa, DE Nan, Odessa, DE

    OMG!!!! This must be ONE treasure to possess. You blessed not only to have this story, your story, but an outstanding sister!

  6. Image for Wendy Wendy

    I love Whitney too! ? ... However I would love to see a clearer picture of your family tree... So creative and heartwarming! Congrats Ms Whitney..

  7. Image for Ellen Ellen

    I am awestruck by Whitney's imagination and creative genius!! I can not even begin to imagine the time and energy and love that went into this gift. I think Whitney just outdid Whitney! The wood frame is a perfect choice for this Family Tree. A beautiful story, beautifully told. Thank-you for sharing this family treasure.

  8. Image for Barbara in CT Barbara in CT

    Searching for family is addictive. I have lots of information about our family but her rendition is amazing.

  9. Image for Marnie Marnie

    Karianne....I am in awe of the creativity, love and care that flows through your family. You have all been blessed and I'm grateful that you share your gift and talent with all with your readers.

  10. Image for Dale Deacon Dale Deacon

    Oh my, how you weave a story, with such patience till by the last sentence, the reader looks up from the screen and just sighs. Imagining sitting at your family gathering and opening this unique, lovingly crafted, heirloom. Oh the excitement, the stunned amazement, the explanations, the tears. Such a talented, extended family, each of them artisans connected in faith and love. Well written Karianne, and thoroughly enjoyed reading this, early this morning, under grey California skies, deluged with pounding rain with more waves of rain in the future and worried about friends and family on the western coast. A ray of joy reading this amongst the chaos.

  11. Image for Toni Toni

    It's no fair that so much creative talent should be consolidated into one family! Simply lovely and amazing in every way!

  12. Image for Melinda Melinda

    I want to be like her also, what a loving sister you have and a beautiful family tree. Thanks for a glimpse into your incredible family

  13. Image for Ren Ren

    Created with love and imagination. I, too, would love to see a clear closeup of the tree so I can marvel at it even more!

  14. Image for Lanita Anderson Lanita Anderson

    What a wonderful idea and a wonderful gift!!! Oh my goodness....I'm sure each of you were thrilled to receive your "family tree" this Christmas! Such special memories...not to mention family history at its finest! Blessings to you....

  15. Image for Irene Kimball Irene Kimball

    Brilliant, thoughtful, honoring, loving, sharing, encircling, revealing, reveling, happy, sad, respectful, inspirational, questing, completing, encompassing.....what a treasure for your family.

  16. Image for bethanie bethanie

    How amazing and creative!! I know your brother has made some incredible gifts too...y'all are one talented bunch. Happy New Year, my friend! xoxo


    What a lovely gift! You will treasure this forever. KariAnne, you have been blessed with a wonderful family.

  18. Image for Botanic Bleu Botanic Bleu

    KariAnne, Is there a how-to book in Whitney's future? If not yet, some editor/publisher/agent should realize what a great seller they would have... Whitney's Creations and How You Can Make Them. Judith

  19. Image for Cheryl Autrey Cheryl Autrey

    What a Precious gift of Love from you Sister! Brought a smil and a warm feeling in my heart. You are Truly Blessed with a Wonderful family. Thank you for sharing such a Beautiful part of your life with us KariAnne.

  20. Image for Patricia Patricia

    I held my breath looking at that amazing, creative, oh so personal tree. It is rooted in love and blooms in perfection!

  21. Image for Julie Julie

    I have a whole box of letters in my basement from my hubby of 38 years from before we were married, I am going to go get them and read them again!!

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