With the holidays, many of us are thinking of the perfect presents for our mothers and daughters. But how about those treasured gifts from back in the day? You might find old cards and hand-made presents cleaning out boxes in your basement or tidying up the drawers of your nightstand – often when you least expect it! They give us glimpses of our past selves and our relationship through the years. Here we share some of the treasures we found recently:
Many years ago, I sorted through all of the cards and letters I had from Jenna and saved my favorites in a big blue box I call “My Jenna Box.” New ones get stuffed through the crack under the lid each year and now it’s starting to overflow again. When Jenna was home recently, we huddled on the couch to read through what I had collected over the years.
I pulled out a stack of letters on camp stationary, some of them folded up accordion-style with Jenna’s lefty scrawl on the outside: “Don’t show to anyone else.” Next, there were the predictable flowery Mother’s Day cards with heartfelt hand-written notes. But the true treasures were at the bottom–the hand-crafted poems, recipes, and photo collages that reassured me that I was a good Mommy. They also gave me a glimpse of my little girl who so creatively and eloquently expressed her love. Searching through my box of sentimentals helped me remember our early mother-daughter relationship. Here are some of my favorites:
When Jenna was 13, she created a photo album entitled “Ellen and Jenna: A Scrapbook of Memories and Pastimes.” She so beautifully captured the push-pull of our relationship and our triumphant love with these rhyming photo captions:
-Even though I can be tough or mean, but you know I love you and you know it’s only because I have become a preteen!
-Although we can get angry or mad, we always work it out so it’s never all that bad.
Being a full-time working Mom, I often felt guilty for not spending more time with Jenna; but, her words at 10 years old helped me understand that she knew I was doing the best I could.Toys all over the place* Always has a smile on her face Hard working as can be Until she comes home to spend time with me Nice in every way Even after every day Helping me out And doesn’t even give a pout The best Mum in the world…
*I used to keep a basket of office toys on my desk for my team to play with during meetings.
Of all the papers in My Jenna Box, my favorite is a card that Jenna made at 9 years old with my photo on the front and these words inside (misspellings corrected). It reminds me that I taught Jenna important values and life lessons.
“When you look at the picture on the front it looks like an ordinary woman in our world. Guess again. That woman just happens to be one of the best people on this earth. Her name is Ellen Mummy Muffin Ruth Resnick. I prefer to call her Mummy but she’s an amazing person and I thank her for all my success in school, friends and a lot of other things. One thing that Mummy’s helped me with is showing me what a good person is. She taught me that you should treat people how you want to be treated, and that your happiness is out of other’s happiness. She’s showed me to deal with bullies and face my fears. I look at Mummy as the greatest role model any nine year old could have. Mummy is also a very determined person. Once she really wants something she gets it. If she makes a mistake she realizes what trait and improves it. I recognize that. I thank Mummy for everything that she’s improved in me.”
Looking through this box of cards, drawings, and memories was a true blast from the past! It’s very easy to look back at old photos and paint a picture in your mind of the way things “used to be”; however, reading my own words helped me reconnect with a side of myself that no picture could articulate.
First, I was reminded of how creative I was as a child. The box was filled with puzzles, awards, coupons, creative stories, and more – how did I come up with all of these clever ideas?! While I still love to write, I find it hard to carve out time and space as an adult to let myself go and be creative. There is always an errand, call, or assignment that takes higher priority over journaling, painting, or making handmade gifts. And when I do make the time, it’s difficult for me to disengage from all the to-do items in my mind to enjoy the creative process. For example, while I still like to make my mom gifts rather than buy her a present, I have settled for a hand-written card over the past few years to express my thoughts and love. While I know my mom appreciates these cards, I wish I had the foresight and creative energy to think of fun, homemade gifts like I did as a kid.
Second, I was reminded how much I loved my mom when I was a little girl. And while that might sound predictable if you have been reading our blog for a while, this truly was a bit of a shock for me. When I was in my early 20’s, my mom and I had several painful disagreements about our different views of my childhood. When I looked back on my life as a kid, I remembered feeling lonely and a bit bored as an only child; the negative memories of watching hours of TV on my couch clouded out the fun times I shared with my mom when she was around.
I’m so glad my mom saved all these gifts and memorabilia from the past because they showed me a side of myself that I had forgotten. As a young adult, it took me a lot of time to work through anger and pain from my childhood – so it was very refreshing to read my happy poems, creative thoughts, and positive, heart-warming words towards my mom. I wish we looked through this box earlier! While I know we had lots of bumps in between, this box reminded me how much I loved and looked up to my mom, even as a little girl.