Last week, I alluded to a gift I was creating for Wendy Smedley. Her oldest son, Taylor, just left to serve a 2-year mission for the LDS church. He's 19, and it's his first time living away from home. Wendy is missing him terribly. I put together this binder as a way for the family to gather little bits and pieces of daily life that they'd like to save for Taylor until he returns. I think the gift is really more for the family than it is for Taylor, to make them feel like they're doing something for him and involving him in their daily lives while he's away.
One of the things that makes the separation so hard is that missionaries only call home twice a year. The rest of the time, all communication happens via email or regular letters. And the families at home really try to help the missionary focus on his or her missionary work, so they typically send encouraging letters that don't distract them or make them feel left out of what's happening at home. The page you see above is where I pasted the doctored Smedley Ice Cream Parlor picture posted last week.
So I put together a little binder for Wendy's family to save all those bits and pieces that they'd like to save for Taylor, but that they're not likely to mail to Taylor. Maybe it's lists of movie or book recommendations for him to check out when he gets back. Funny advertisements. Notes from people who stop by for a visit. Magazine articles. Random thoughts and ideas. Doodles and drawings, etc. (Note: Missionaries don't go to movies, watch television, or read anything unrelated to the work they're out there to perform, hence the need to make lists like these. I kind of like the sense of a "return to simpler times" that comes with hand-written letters, and I loved writing to my sister while she was serving in Australia a couple of years ago. Of course, it's so much harder to be parted from a child, so maybe I won't find it so quaint and charming if/when my own child is gone from home for 2 years!)
Supplies: I picked up a colorful binder from the office-supply section of Target, plus a few zippered pockets from the school-supply section. I clipped out words from magazines and gathered a few colorful patterned papers, label stickers, manila envelopes, a corner rounder, a standard hole punch, letter stickers, and stamps.
I chose graph paper for the interior pages. The family can staple or tape things to the pages, draw, doodle, write notes, whatever! And for my divider tabs, I cut apart manila folders, covered them in patterned paper, and rounded the corners.
To decorate the plastic zippered pouches, I cut a piece of sturdy patterned paper to 3-inches wide and the same length as the pouch. I scored it lengthwise down the center, folded it in half, and rounded the corners. Then I used heavy-duty glue lines to stick the paper to the pouch and punched three holes through the paper binding, right where the original holes are in the pouch.
I included three sections in the notebook, and the family can devote them to different topics if they'd like or simply let them all be random.
I wanted this project to be bright, colorful, and eclectic, so that anything or everything that the Smedleys gather to save inside will feel right at home.
I think this idea would also be great keepsake for a deployed serviceman who has limited access to mail, movies and music, or modern conveniences. This is a place to save up the things that you'd like them to have when they return, but that may not be appropriate to send out into the field with them.
Or create a book like this for a friend whose son, daughter, brother, or sister is on a tour of duty somewhere far away, whether for God or for country.