As much as I love the spirit of the holidays, it makes me miss my grandparents. I adored them and have so many special memories of them at Christmas. My sweet grandmother, Jane Smith – who we affectionately called “Gigi”, was quite talented. From hand-sewing ornaments for her tree to making us Advent calendars – her creativity was endless. Gigi also handstitched beautiful red Christmas stockings for her granddaughters – complete with felt, sequins and beads. They are still cherished by the five of us.
About nine years ago, Gigi suffered a stroke. For the last three years of her life she was paralyzed on one side of her body. It absolutely broke our hearts to have to put her in a nursing home. Every year we decorated her room with a miniature tree and some of the ornaments she had made in her younger years.
After our beloved Gigi passed away, I wanted to find a way to memorialize her. Instead of boxing up her beautiful things, I repurposed some of them. I made framed vintage jewelry Christmas trees using her beautiful earrings, broches, and parts of broken necklaces. I even convinced my Mom to let me go through her own jewelry drawer, and went through my own jewelry box – where I found broken necklaces and earrings that were missing their mates. I had a lot of hot glue burns on my fingers, but they turned out great! I made one for myself and gave the other to my sister for Christmas. (See photo attached.)
I also went through Gigi’s clothing before it was donated and grabbed about twelve blouses that were quintessentially Gigi — soft velvets, floral prints and pastel colors. I found someone to transform the shirts into two quilts; one for my daughter and the other for my niece. Born one day apart, they both have Jane as their middle name. Seeing our girls cuddling with their “Gigi blankets” at Christmas melts our hearts and connects them with the matriarch they never were able to meet. (See photo attached.)
I took photos of the interior of Gigi’s old house – close ups of her yellow and green kitchen linoleum floor, the vintage wallpaper in her living room and den as well as the patterned fabric on the sofa (or “divan” as she called it). Once home I headed straight to my local printer, where I had the photos turned into unique and personal notecards. I gave them to my Smith family members as Christmas gifts.
I also took the metal frame off of Gigi’s screen door, which had an “S” for Smith on it. My Mom’s brother had just passed away the month before; his wife was now the last living Smith in our family. It was truly the end of an era. My husband and I had planned to name our son, who was due in 2 weeks, Smith. A couple months after he and his twin sister were born, I had the metal frame with the “S” made into a piece of art and hung it in the bedroom that they share. Of course, my mom and aunt were so touched when they found out what the names of the twins were.
We can give a second life to sentimental items and create treasures for our loved ones that honor those whom we have lost. This is the perfect time to get those things out of storage and find a new purpose for them! We learned many lessons from our sweet Gigi, not least of which is that the best Christmas gifts are the ones that warm our souls. Merry Christmas!