Kelly Takes On: My Family Tree–Part II…A Lovely Revelation

Simple Things Made Complicated…

I love planning events, but probably not in the way you’re thinking.  Let me be clear: Martha Stewart, I am not.  Craftiness: it’s just not my thing.  However, I’d argue that my “event planning” skill set is just as impressive as Martha’s.  What I love to do is create memories.

My husband often jokes that if I ever start my own event business, he has the perfect name for my company: Simple Things Made Complicated.  Sadly, this name does resonate some truth, but I think it’s the little extra effort that can turn an ordinary moment into one that is truly unforgettable.

Quick example: Christmas.

My youngest sister and I have a very special Christmas tradition with my mom. Each year we not only make sure to find the perfect presents for her, but we make sure they’re always tied together with a theme.

For instance, one year her theme was “These Are the Days to Remember“.  Each gift was tied to a specific memory from a specific date that year.  I gave her half a dozen gifts, each one had an envelope with a date on top and an letter inside explaining the memory from that day and the gift.  Her last gift was labeled “December 24th” (the day she was opening the gift) and below is part of her letter:

While this year’s Christmas theme was centered on celebrating some of our favorite memories of 2008, Christmas is also a time about creating new memories.  And that’s what I want to do with you now…

When we found out that we were pregnant one of the first questions that people would typically ask is “do you want to find out whether the baby’s a girl or a boy?”  Everyone had an opinion on this—including you.  You gave us some very good advice—you reminded us that finding out is a very big moment, one that should be special and memorable.  Well, we couldn’t agree with you more….

She then opened her box and was overwhelmed with everything pink–pink tissue paper, pink Grandma shirt, pink picture frame.  You get the idea.  And this is how my mom found out that her first grandchild was going to be a girl.  Cue the waterworks.  And that’s a moment that I will never, ever forget…and I’m pretty sure my mom won’t either.

In fact, I actually measure the awesomeness of my gifts by how much can I make her cry…happy tears of course.  And as weird as it may sound, this is always my single goal.  I once read that “happy tears are the expression of the heart that words can’t express.”  And that’s what I shoot for.   For me, happy tears is by far the best gift you could ever give someone.

Memories from a memory that’s fading…

For months I kept a secret from my grandmother–something that was not easy for me to do.  I had been doing some very important research–determined to find out about my ancestors, I had been researching my family tree.  And with the help of, I finally found the answer I was looking for: my family is English.

But in keeping with my “Simple Things Made Complicated” passion, I wanted to reveal this discovery to my grandma in a very special way.

So I partnered up with my mom and sister and created one of the most memorable days with my grandma…we decided to throw my grandma her first English tea party for Mother’s Day!  We tried to be fancy and dignified, but that didn’t last long.  At one point, my grandma actually burped from drinking all her tea.  Should I remind you how proud my grandma has always been of her Kentucky roots?

We enjoyed delightful conversations like this one:

My grandma enjoying her first English tea party

My grandma enjoying her first English tea party.

My mom: Mom, would you like a scone with your tea?

My grandma: SCUM?!

My mom: No, a scone.  Would you like a scone?

My grandma: A STONE?!

Imagine this conversation going on for about five minutes.  Needless to say, at nearly 84 years old, my grandmother’s hearing isn’t as sharp as it used to be.

After she finally understood we were offering her a pastry and not scum or stones, it was time for the real fun to begin.  It was time for her to open her presents.

My mom looked at me and asked with a smile, “Kelly–do you think there’s something missing on your grandmaDo you think she needs an important accessory?”  My mom reached reached behind her and pulled out a tiara and put it on my grandma’s head.  “We think you should be queen today.”

Then my sister brought out a very special bouquet of flowers: a giant pot of mums.  (Get it, “mum”s.)

Then my grandma opened a nightlight from my mom–a tea cup night light.

Her next gift was from me.  “Now Grandma–I got you something really, really special for Mother’s Day.  I think you’re going to LOVE it.”  I cracked up seeing her face when when opened a box of Honey Nut Cheerios.   (As in “cheerio”.  Yes, these gifts were a bit of an English stretch, but we thought they were cute.)

We tried to explain to her that today had a theme–that her tea party, the presents…they all tie together somehow.  My grandma was still confused.  We thought the next gift would give it away.  It didn’t.

She opened up an umbrella with red, white and blue panels.  “Do you notice anything strange about this umbrella?”, my mom asked her.

Raise the flag?”  Those words were indeed on the umbrella, but that’s not what we were referring to.

No–the picture of the flag.”  Light bulb had still not gone off for my grandma.  It was time to fill her in.

No one has ever been so happy to get a box of Cheerios!

No one has ever been so happy to get a box of Cheerios!

Queen Maxine with her British flag umbrella!

Queen Maxine with her British flag umbrella!

I sat down next to her.  “Grandma–did you really think that I would just get you a box of Cheerios for Mother’s Day?  The truth is, I’ve been working on your present for a long time now.”  Her eye brow was raised…she knew I was up to something.

“Grandma–I have a question for you.  Where did we come from?  Do you know our heritage?

Then something happened to me; suddenly I was the one who had the happy tears.  I could feel my eyes filling as I looked at my grandma.  “I knew exactly what I wanted to get you for Mother’s Day.  I wanted to give you the answer to that question.”

My sister and I then went outside to where we had hid her gift and carried in the huge present.  She opened it, but still didn’t know exactly what it was.

I sat next to her and we went through every single branch–explaining each person and their relation to her.  It was a goose bump moment for me.  And I loved when we finally made it to the top branch–to her 5th great grandmother, Elizabeth Banks…who was born in Canterbury, England.  “I’m a briar and a Brit.”  Yep–that’s my grandma.

My English Roots

My English Roots

Going through each branch of our family tree together...goose bumps!

Going through each branch of our family tree together…goose bumps!

As she sat there, looking at this tree with names she’d never seen before, something really cool happened…she started remembering things.  Over the past two years, my grandma’s memory has faded.  A lot.  But for a few minutes, my grandma started remembering things from her childhood.  She started telling us about her grandparents.  She told us how when she was little, she would walk to school with her brothers and sometimes they would walk past this picket fence to find a row of apples that her grandfather had set out to surprise them.  I love that image.

I had the perfect Mother’s Day card for my grandma–it was another goose bump moment when I read it. “Over the years you’ve been a story teller, a tradition keeper, the link between our family’s past and present.”  Yes, my grandma is all of those things.  She’s the woman who I love and respect more than I could ever put into words, and I loved that I was able to help find more links to our family’s history for her.

And the best part is that this is not the end of the story…I have more planned for my grandma.  And while her memory may not allow her remember these moments for long, I will.

3 generations embracing our English heritage!

3 generations embracing our English heritage!

Surrounded by all her new English gear

Surrounded by all her new English gear

Happy Mother’s Day to my grandma: a briar…and now also a proud Brit!

5 thoughts on “Kelly Takes On: My Family Tree–Part II…A Lovely Revelation

  1. I have goosebumps everywhere! I was there, experienced the same thing you described so eloquently, and yet I’m crying! Thank you for every memory you’ve created for me, I love you, Mom

  2. Pingback: Kelly Takes On: My Family Tree–Part I | Measured in Moments

  3. Pingback: Kelly Takes On: My Family Tree–Part III…A Road Trip Down Memory Lane | Measured in Moments

  4. Pingback: 2013 Christmas Challenge: Day #22…Tea Time With a Priceless Family Heirloom | Measured in Moments

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