The Family Farm – Fran’s 90th Birthday Gift

Something for the person who has nearly everything...

By Eric Peterschmidt

Steve and his family had been hearing stories about “the family farm” for most of their lives. Steve’s mother, Fran, had been born there and grew up there, and she had wonderful memories.

But the family didn’t own the farm any longer, and none of them had been there for years.

With Fran’s 90th birthday approaching, Steve took his mother for a drive – off to see the family farm.

When they got there, they were surprised to find that all of the buildings had been torn down. All of them. All that was left was an overgrown driveway, waving green grasses, some trees, and a random leftover fence row here and there.

Steve and Fran got out of the car and started walking around, and, as they walked, Fran started telling stories. Stories of how they had planted that one tree, right over there. Stories of playing hide and seek in the meadow. Stories of ringing the dinner bell.

Stories Steve had never heard before.

This place – even without the buildings that used to stand there – brought back ALL OF THOSE MEMORIES that Fran had stored up from her youth.

Steve started wishing he had brought his mother’s brothers, because surely they would have stories to share as well.

Then he wished he had thought to bring a tape recorder, so he could capture all of these stories to share with his children and grandchildren.

As Steve and his mom drove away that day, he was overwhelmed with feelings. He knew his mother would not live forever, and he had loved hearing the stories she had shared while walking around the property that used to be their family farm.

How could he capture those memories? How could he collect even more memories of such a special place that was so meaningful in their family history?

After returning to his own house, Steve went looking for photos that had anything to do with the family farm.

He found exactly one. One photo, of three children who appeared to be ringing a giant bell mounted to a weathered post in the yard.

“Ah, that must be the dinner bell Mom mentioned,” he thought to himself.

Then reality set in. One photo. Surely there must be more, likely scattered through the family.

Steve decided that a wonderful gift for his mother’s 90th birthday just might be to collect all of those photos, and the stories and memories that go with them, and give her the gift of capturing this piece of the family legacy for future generations.

Could he create – somehow – a “virtual” family farm?

But it would be a daunting task to collect them all, wouldn’t it?

He knew he could put the word out and people would send him photos, but that wouldn’t capture the stories and memories. What he really wanted was a way for everyone to tell the stories that the photos would trigger.

I’m sure it won’t come as any surprise to you that he turned to TightKnit. (After all, that’s how I know the story, right?)

Steve had been introduced to TightKnit by a friend, and, although he had signed up, he had never done much with it. But, from what he remembered, it could be the PERFECT way to create this gift for his mother.

He started by creating a story album, and he named it “The Erickson Family Farm.” Steve uploaded his one photo of the family farm – the kids ringing the bell, and asked a few questions. “When was this used? Who got to ring it? Where on the farm was this?”

He then created a family group – “Erickson Family” – with whom to share the album, and invited everyone he could think of who might have photos stashed away or stories to share – except, of course, that he didn’t invite his mother. After all, this gift was to be a surprise.

Family members signed in to the story album, and things REALLY started happening. His mother’s brother, Uncle Ed, had quite a few memories about that bell, and he added them to the photo. Uncle Ed also had a few pictures from back in that time, and he added them to the album.

Cousin Claire added some more photos (including the c.1978 picture of the farmhouse, below), as did another brother, and so on.

Others started adding their comments to the photos, and the conversations multiplied. Questions were asked. People were identified. Memories and stories were shared.

And before you know it, a beautiful, wonderful story album full of photos, memories, and family stories became a reality.

For the occasion of Fran’s 90th birthday, the family gathered together for a party. Of course there was food, and cake, and music, and laughter.

And presents.

Steve and his siblings had all gone in to get Mom a tablet – and it had a surprise inside it.

As Fran unwrapped her gift, her eyes grew wide. She was thrilled – and she hadn’t even gotten to the best part yet.

Steve sat with her, and together, they turned it on. With a few taps, Steve had opened TightKnit and helped Fran log in.

And what did she see?

A beautiful, wonderful story album filled with photos, stories, and memories from the family farm. She focused, at first, on a picture of her brother Earl, standing in front of the farmhouse, dressed in his uniform.

“Oh my,” she said. “I remember that day. Earl was heading off to Europe. It was World War II, and he had signed up to fight. We were all so scared for him, but we were proud, too.”

“Wait a second, Mom,” Steve interrupted. “Tap that record button on the picture and your story will become part of this album.”

And she did that. Her voice, telling the story of Earl heading off to war, was recorded, sharing that memory, for all time.

She had many other stories to share, and, even after the party was over, Fran kept adding her stories and memories to the photos.

And, at 90 years old, she even uploaded a few photos of her own.

Other family members started their own story albums, created different family groups, and, before you could say “kitchen table,” a many-layered family legacy of story albums and family groups had been created.

The wedding of one of Fran’s grandchildren inspired a whole new family to join, and that family began capturing their own legacy.

And so it continues.

Whether a birthday, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, Grandparents Day, or just any day or any occasion, capturing and preserving memories with the aid of TightKnit can be the perfect gift, don’t you think?

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