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Saturday, 01 January 2000

The Treasure Chest: Staying Connected Over The Miles

Written by  Shari Davis

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Question: My mother and stepfather live in one state, my father and stepmother live in another state and four siblings and seven grandchildren live in three different cities. Given the thousands of miles between us, how can we remain an active part of each other's lives?

Let's face it, even with the best intentions, it's hard to find time to write letters to everyone in your family. Sure you can e-mail multiple copies of a note, but a preschooler's collage really doesn't look great on a computer screen and not all grandparents own a computer.

When we recently packed up our house and three kids and moved, yet again, my sister-in-law came up with a great idea: A family letter which travels on a pre-determined route, gives each household a set time to enjoy the contents, and gathers more items at each stop. As it continues to make the rounds, old items, which everyone has seen, can be removed and new items added.

Yes, it's exciting to hear "You've Got Mail" as you open your e-mail screen, but there's an even bigger thrill tearing open a big envelope filled with lots of little goodies!

The first family letter we received contained a color photocopied scrapbook of the cousins' summer vacation, with lots of photos, and drawings created by my nieces. Also included were packets of photos to continue on the rounds, and another packet of photos earmarked especially for grandma. There was a family letter, the invitation for my nieces fifth birthday and some cute little drawings and notes from the kids.

We will be adding a videotape of life in our new home to the family letter (easier than making six copies for everyone!), some drawings and letters from the kids, and a color photocopied photo album of our recent adventures. The trick here, is getting the letter out in a timely way. (I'm still working on this!) Ideally, each person should keep it no more than a week or two so it can circulate at a reasonable rate. Our family letter will be making five stops along the way.

SOME TIPS ON CREATING A FAMILY CHAIN LETTER

  • The person starting the letter should designate the path it will take from family member to family member.
  • You can send items you don't want to give away, everyone can enjoy them and you'll get them back when it comes your way again.
  • You can designate certain items to be kept by certain people, i.e., a specific photo for grandma or the scrapbook to be kept by your sister when the packet comes around again.
  • The family letter may swell as it makes the rounds, so don't include things which are too heavy.

Suggested Items to Include
Color photocopied scrapbooks of special family events, photos, party invitations, videotapes, souvenirs from trips, pressed leaves or flowers from your yard, artwork, an audio tape of grandparents reading a children's story, a magazine article you want everyone to read and comment on, a special recipe, jokes and riddles.

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Last modified on Sunday, 15 May 2011 15:42
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Shari Davis

Shari Davis

Shari Davis has developed multi-cultural art programs, exhibits and educational resources that explore family and community history and cultural identity. As co-founder of Creative Ways she has brought these programs to dozens of schools and museums. She has coordinated family education programs at numerous museums and has expertise in intergenerational learning. She is co-author of the book Nourishing the Heart: A Guide to Intergenerational Art Programs in the Schools.

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