We traveled fairly extensively with our kids when they were young. We took wide-ranging road trips throughout the United States to visit National Parks and major cities. We flew all over to see the sites in Israel, Italy, France and England. We took tons of pictures, and I also kept a travel diary during each of these trips. In addition, much to my family’s chagrin, I collected ephemera from every place we visited, ate, stayed or stopped to fill the pages of the scrapbooks I created when we returned home. My small band of travelers would laugh at me as I inspected everything prior to tossing it away. What was the item’s potential as possible scrapbook material? What did it—or would it—represent in our memory banks when we looked through our scrapbook in the future?
They laughed then, but now—years later—as we look through those scrapbooks, that little pink gelato spoon from Perché No! in Florence, Italy reminds us of that delicious nocciola gelato, while a small bag of dirt from El Santuario de Chimayo brings us right back to that remarkable chapel in New Mexico filled with crutches, trinkets and letters from people healed by the holy soil, and when we see the London Underground passes we all shout, “Mind the Gap!” laughing as we remember the fun we had navigating “The Tube” all over that amazing city. “Useless” pieces of paper, “meaningless” little items, each carrying a memory of places visited and experiences we lived together.
Keeping memories and creating reminders—or memorials—to those memories is a very Jewish value. Started by God with the rainbow as a reminder of the covenant between The Holy One and Noah that a Flood would never happen again, it continued when God demanded that we “observe the feats of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of Mitzrayim (Egypt); you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time” (Exodus 12:17). It endures into modern times as our rabbis continue to create days of remembrance such as Yom HaShoah (Remembering those murdered in the Holocaust), Yom HaZikaron (Remembering Israel’s Fallen Warriors,) Yom HaAtzmaut (Remembering the Founding of the State of Israel) and more.
God made rainbows. The Rabbis make memorial days. I make scrapbooks. How do you teach your children that memory of people, events or experiences is important? Whatever you do, you will be giving a real gift to them and future generations.
Here is a list of interesting books about “Remembrance:”
The Blessing Cup written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco.
©2013. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children. Ages 4-8.
In this companion story to Polacco’s The Keeping Quilt, Anna, the Russian matriarch of the family, treasures a china tea set that had been given to her by her mother. The tea set came with the understanding that “Anyone who drinks from this will have blessings from God. They will never know a day of hunger…They will know love and joy and they will never be poor.” Today all that is left of the tea set is one small cup, which is treasured by the family and brought out for those occasions when its blessing would be most meaningful and necessary.
Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart. Illustrated by Barbara Reid.
©1996. Scholastic Books. Ages 3-8.
Start with the incredibly beautiful and detailed acrylic clay artwork of Barbara Reid. Add Jo Ellen Bogart’s whimsical rhyme about a traveling grandma and her delightfully whimsical granddaughter, and you have the story of how the wishes of one (the grandchild) are interpreted into the most wondrous of presents by the other (grandma).
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh. Illustrated by Layne Johnson.
©2012. Boyds Mill Press. Ages 6-10.
Very close to Memorial Day weekend at the end of May, you should spot a member of the American Legion standing outside your bank, grocery store or friendly retail establishment with a large number of red paper poppies in his or her hand asking for your donation to the Veterans Fund. Make a donation, wear your poppy, then find a copy of this book to learn why poppies and veterans go hand-in-hand. It is a remarkable story.
Six Million Paper Clips: The Making of a Children’s Holocaust Memorial by Peter W. Schroeder and Dagmar Schroeder-Hildebrand.
©2004. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 10-14.
How do you memorialize the deaths of almost 12 MILLION people – 6 MILLION Jews, 5 MILLION others, over 1 MILLION children? How do you do this in a town that has never experienced diversity education? You begin slowly and simply and you use paper clips.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. Illustrated by Julie Vivas.
© 1985. Kane/Miller Book Publishers. ©1992. Puffin Books. Ages 4-8.
If there was one book I had to choose to help children understand memory or remembrance, this is the one! With the assistance of his family and friends and using items he collects from all around the neighborhood, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge helps his friend Miss Nancy get her memory back.