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Simple Rituals

Connections: Schools (Social Studies, Language Arts); Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of Something to Remember Me By; paper; pen/pencil.

Doing It:

What is a ritual? Why are traditions and rituals important? You may want to read The Magic of Traditions & Rituals section in this kit.

What are the rituals in Something to Remember Me By? Many of the visits between grandmother and granddaughter end with the grandmother's words, "I want to give you something to remember me by." Then she gives her young granddaughter a small keepsake. This becomes a tradition, a ritual between grandmother and granddaughter. It's also implied that the granddaughter regularly tells her grandmother, "You're the best grandmother in the whole world!" This is another little ritual.

Make a list of all the rituals in your life, things you regularly do with your family and can count on. Do you have rituals with your parents and grandparents, or children and grandchildren? Perhaps you wave good-bye from the same window, or have a regular Friday evening date for pizza. Do you have holiday rituals? Do you have daily rituals? Daily rituals can be very ordinary, like a parent reading a story to a child before bed every night. Why are rituals important in your life?

For other activities related to rituals, see the Memories & Traditions section of this kit.


I Opened the Cedar Chest and Inside I Found...

Connections: Schools (History, Language Arts); Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of Something to Remember Me By; copy of "Ads for Lane Cedar Chests Through the Years"; paper; pen/pencil.

Doing It:

Do you know what a cedar chest is? Do you or does someone in your family have one? Where did it come from? What does it contain? What does it mean to you?

Find all the places in Something to Remember Me By where the cedar chest appears. (Answer: title page, dedication page, 11, 19, 20, 22, and 28. Bonus Answer: the page border design is based on the lid and bottom wood carving of the cedar chest.) The cedar chest is closed on the title page and open on the dedication page. Why? How does this relate to the story? Why is the cedar chest an important part of the story?

A cedar chest is a unique piece of furniture. It carries a lot of emotion. A chair is usually just a place you sit, and a table is a functional piece of furniture you eat on. But a cedar chest is special. The cedar chest is one of the most precious keepsakes I have from my grandmother. My grandfather actually gave my grandmother the chest, and then she passed it down to me. My grandmother assigned a special piece of furniture to each of her children and grandchildren. From the time I was five years old, my grandmother would tell me that some day the cedar chest would be mine. And I took care of it! I might have bumped into the other pieces of furniture in my grandmother's house, but I was always extra careful around that cedar chest. The cedar chest is special to me not only because it's a beautiful piece of furniture and a keepsake from my grandmother, but also because of all the keepsakes it holds. It really is a "treasure chest." A cedar chest is a safe place to hold some of your most important and special treasures. For example, my grandmother used to do a lot of needlework, and I have so many beautiful things that she made by hand. Sometimes, when I'm feeling down, I visit my cedar chest and all the wonderful memories it holds cheer me up.

Historically, cedar chests were sold as romantic wedding gifts and as "hope chests" for young women to keep special items in anticipation of their marriage. Today, cedar chests are decorative and functional pieces of furniture that are also a place to hold a lifetime of a family's memories, protected and ready to be passed on to the next generation.

The Lane Furniture company is the largest manufacturer of cedar chests. Compare their ads from the past to their present-day ads. What do you think of the ads? How have they changed over the years? Who do you think bought cedar chests in the past? Who do you think buys them now?

In 1912, John Lane attended a bankruptcy auction in Altavista, Virginia and bought a small packing box plant for $500. A former furniture manufacturer there had told John that cedar chests were his most profitable item. So, John suggested that his son, Edward Hudson Lane, try his hand at starting a chest factory. Ed Lane was just 21, had no manufacturing experience, and had never even heard of a cedar chest. But he jumped in enthusiastically. His first cedar chest was priced at $19 -- and you could buy it for $1 down and $1 a week after that.

The company's initial years were difficult. The product was crude, production methods were basic, there really weren't any sales people, and financing was in a nearly constant state of crisis, or as Ed later related, "we were only one jump ahead of the sheriff most of the time." But by the time John Lane died in 1930, Ed's plant was turning out between 250 and 300 cedar chests per day. John had been amazed that they could keep selling as many chests as they produced.

When the US went into World War I in 1917, the chest company found itself in the position of either going out of business or manufacturing something that would contribute to the war effort. The plant began production of pine ammunition boxes. It was during this time that Ed learned a valuable lesson about assembly line production and efficiency.

1922 was a turning point for the company. Lane began advertising its cedar chests nationally. One of its first ads was a black & white, two-page ad that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. Cedar chests became a symbol of romance -- as authentic a symbol of romance as the wedding ring.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the US entered World War II, Lane tried to find its place in the "work or fight" defense program of the time. Government officials who came to inspect the Lane plant to determine what should be made there decided that the cedar chest production line was so efficient that it could continue on the condition that additional facilities be built for the war effort materials. Under the usual wartime restrictions on use of metal, glue, and for a time even wood, cedar chest production continued along with production to fill government orders for aircraft plywood, wood plane tail assemblies, landing craft parts, dog sleds, and wood glider wings.

Wartime letters from servicemen who wanted to have cedar chests sent to girlfriends or wives prompted Lane, through its national advertising, to set up a network between servicemen, a special Lane correspondence staff, home-town stores, and the "girls back home." This boosted the morale of both servicemen and their families. In 1943, in Life and The Saturday Evening Post, Lane ran the ad with the headline, "What does a fighting man dream about? He thinks of his enemy, but dreams of the girl back home." The idea of a cedar chest as a "hope chest" was born.

Edward Hudson Lane died in 1973, just over 60 years from the time he went to Altavista to start the cedar chest factory. In that time he created an American tradition. Today, cedar chests are collectibles and are given as gifts for holidays, weddings, birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries.

Try your hand at writing a short story that starts with the phrase, "I opened the cedar chest and inside I found...". Let your imagination go. What kinds of things would you keep in a cedar chest? What do you think your parents or grandparents, or children or grandchildren might keep in one?

Variation: Children can make up silly cedar chest stories. For example, what might Santa keep in his cedar chest? What about Dracula? Madonna? The Queen of England? Harry Potter?


Kitchen Memories

Connections: Schools (Art, Social Studies, Language Arts); Seniors Groups/Facilities; Families; Community Groups.

What You Need: Copies of Something to Remember Me By (or photocopy and distribute the black & white version of the kitchen illustration); paper; pencil crayons and/or markers.

Doing It:

A great intergenerational activity is to have young and old compare kitchens of the past with kitchens of the present. Research shows it's not the living room or dining room that's the best place in the house to make a cozy intergenerational connection. It's the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen is a bit of a "grandma-and-cookies" stereotype. But, both adults and children tend to be most relaxed and receptive in the kitchen. We smell and taste in the kitchen; we talk about and learn things in the kitchen.

Use the first illustration in Something to Remember Me By as a starting point for discussing kitchen memories. The illustrations in Something to Remember Me By were painted using watercolors and casein on a 100% rag, cold press surface illustration board. Watercolor is made up of powder color bound with gum arabic and glycerine. It is a transparent medium applied with water. Casein is a water-based paint that dries semi-waterproof. Painting emphasizes the use of color to convey meaning and emotion. What are the dominant colors in Something to Remember Me By? Why are they appropriate for the story? Do the illustrations look unrealistic and dreamlike, or the way things really look in the world? Why is this style appropriate for the story?

Both young and old love the big, sunny, bright, warm kitchen illustration that starts Something to Remember Me By. So many people at my readings and workshops say it looks "exactly" like their grandmother's kitchen! What do you see in the kitchen? What is the grandmother doing? What is the granddaughter doing? What was the granddaughter doing just before she started her current task? How does the kitchen look like your kitchen? How does it look different? What appliances and utensils did kitchens of the past have? What appliances and utensils do they have now?

A mixed group of children and adults, including grandparents or older adults in a local seniors group/facility, can talk about what their kitchen (or mother or grandmother's kitchen) looks or looked like. Describe the kitchens in great detail. Each person should take the group on a "mind tour" through their kitchen. Where is the doorway? Where is the table? The stove? The refrigerator? Is there a window? Describe the items in the kitchen, furniture, appliances, colors, smells. What do you remember about special times spent in a family kitchen?

Then, everyone can get creative and draw their kitchens. For older adults with limited physical ability, young people can follow instructions an older person gives on how to draw the kitchen they remember.

From Holiday Activity Kit by Susan V. Bosak ©2003

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