One day my dear friend Barbie accompanied me to the attic. As I rearranged once again stacks of boxes to make room for more, she laughed when she spotted a box labeled, "Charlie’s Memorabilia" She asked, “How could Charlie already have a box of memorabilia when he is only two years old?” Laughing, I said, “Open it.”
She did and was surprised to see I had saved not only the usual baby shoes, she saw his teething ring, a tiny box with his baby teeth, first tiny diaper, Christening gown, rattles and photographs. As she closed the box, I could see a melancholy expression on her face. She said softly, “I kept Christy’s baby shoes but not Ryan’s. I never thought to keep the things you did.” Then she laughed. “And baby teeth! Ryan swallowed his and I think my grandmother kept some of Christy’s, but their gone now.”
Handing the box back to me, she asked, “What are you going to do with all this stuff you are saving?” Feeling overwhelmed as I gazed upon the stacked boxes, I was not at all sure what to do. A couple of years later, push came to shove and I had to do something about all those boxes.
My father had a stroke and my mother was terrified of taking care of him herself.
After much soul-searching, my husband, Keith, and our kids Tiffeni & Charlie offered to turn the attic into an apartment for them. Because Keith built our home, some areas were still a work-in-progress, particularly the front hall. We did not know what style staircase we wanted, so we did not build it since there was one in the kitchen. Because there were no stairs in the hall, we installed an elevator for my father who now had to be in a wheelchair.
When finished, the attic became a private two-bedroom, handicap bathroom, full kitchen and a living/dining room apartment. It was quite commodious and with the ease of the elevator, dad was able to ride it down to the basement where we had set up a workshop filled with all his tools and gadgets so he could entertain himself.
So what happened to all those boxes? It was a conundrum.We piled the boxes in the guest bedroom, which was also my office. We piled boxes in the kids bedrooms, hallway and laundry room. As we placed these cubicles of souvenirs’ into stacks, I looked into each box to see what exactly was in it. Oh my goodness! Talk about memories. Each of us was stunned to see stuff we thought long gone and were thrilled to see again. I will not describe here all the emotions displayed, but rest assured there were plenty. So what did we do next? Organize!
As we opened a box and saw what was in it and to whom the stuff belonged, we put the box in that person’s room and labeled it with their name and description of the contents. This was the best time to consider what were the most important things to continue saving. Box-by-box everyone had a hand in creating their own preservation. But what to do after we organized it all was still a dilemma. Then I got a clue by way of a very unexpected discovery.
One day Tiffeni and I took a trip offered by the ChryslerMuseum to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Caroline. Built in 1917 by Katharine Smith Reynolds and her husband R.J. Reynolds, founder of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the home displayed a premiere collection of American art ranging from the colonial period to the present. The museum had restored interior rooms and furnishings to reflect the periods when the family lived there. Reynolda House features a gallery space for traveling exhibitions. There are usually two shows featured in that space every year, one in the fall and one in the spring.
There are other exhibitions throughout the year in the Northeast and West Bedrooms in the house. Not only in the bedrooms but in the attic where a wide hallway was lined with glassed-in mini rooms that displayed delightful items, from
clothing to jewelry, sports equipment, toys, music, photographs and more.
That is when I came up with the idea of a family museum. If the Reynolda family can take areas in their home to display their precious memorabilia, then so could my family!