Saturday, June 29, 2013

Patriotic Configurations Memory Box


In June of 2012, I started a patriotic configurations project.  I really wasn't sure what I was doing, I just wanted to do one and I was in love with the Glory paper line by Authentique.  I started using it to make some new patriotic decorations for my home. (Like I needed any more patriotic decorations, but I digress.)

I got the bones of the project completed, gathered some odds and ends of things I had collected over the years for a shadow box I was going to make (like back in, oh....1989?  I have stated on here before that I'm a starter not a finisher right?)  But alas, it was rather empty and needed somethings.

In July of 2012, we went back to Fox Chase Cancer treatment center in Philadelphia with my sister, where her doctor gave her approximately two weeks to live.  An absolute and utter shock to us all.  Still reeling from the news, and with two days before our flight home, we did what we had done for the last 4 years of treatments in Boston and Philly -- we went to some historical places and tried to LIVE those last two weeks.  Strangely enough, although I think it was a way of coping for us, we looked for little things along the way to incorporate into this configuration box.

Needless to say, when we got home, it was the last thing on our minds.  We spent that last few weeks together and my beautiful sister stepped into Heaven on August 18, just a month later.

Getting back to scrapping or anything took awhile for me, and finishing this box was just too difficult to face.  I knew my sister wanted me to finish it and she had specifically purchased some things for me on that last trip to Gettysburg just for that reason.  So as I thought about it, I decided that I wanted the different boxes to represent our travels together to different historical places, learning about our nation's history.

As I got started working on the project, I realized that it was missing something and decided that the Tim Holtz vials and labels would be perfect.  I just needed dirt from the different places we had been.  This is where I enlisted friends who were on vacation and visiting these places to please gather some dirt for me and bring it back, and they did!  A huge thank you to Paul and Kara, Christy, and Becky for helping me.  And thanks to the lady at the Dobbin House Tavern Country Store in Gettysburg for mailing me the mini cannon that we missed getting that last night together in Gettysburg last July.

So without further ado, here is my patriotic configurations memory box, dedicated to my beautiful sister Melissa.  I miss her every day, miss sharing her love of history, and I treasure the precious memories we made in Boston, Lexington, Concord, Philadelphia, Valley Forge, and Gettysburg.
Each section represents a place we visited or a person or place important to American History.

Corner one is about the Old North Church in Boston, Massachusetts.  Included in this section is a lantern from Tim holtz Ideaology collection that actually lights up!  I saw it and knew it had to go in this project.  A small charm of the church is in the front and in the back is an empty vial for some dirt from the Old North Church waiting to be filled just as soon as I can find a friend visiting Boston. So if anyone is visiting Boston soon and can get me some dirt from the Old North Church, let me know!
 As you may know, the Old North Church is the place were the church Sexton, Robert Newman, was to hang a lantern in the top of the church steeple to signal to Paul Revere and Billy Dawes, stationed across the river in Charles Town, letting them know which route the British Regulars were taking to Lexington to get John Hancock and Samuel Adams and then on to Concord to secure military supplies there that had been collected by the Colonial Militia.  One lantern signaled that the Regulars were coming by land, and two lanterns signaled that they would come by ships across the Charles River. Revere and Dawes did make it to Lexington in time to warn Hancock and Adams, but did not make it to Concord. The residents there had already moved the military supplies in anticipation of an attack.
The church is divided into boxes with little foot heaters for hot coals.  Both ways to keep the congregation warm during the very cold winter months.  Here we are in the Revere box.
 During a rennovation, this window was discovered and is believed to be the one Robert Newman escaped through after giving the signal.  A lamp that was also found is hung in the window.
 Betsy Ross gets the next section.  Although disputed in some circles, she is widely believed to have been the one to make the first American Flag.  While in Philadelphia, we visited her home.  Yes, this vial is also empty, waiting for any of my friends to make the trek to the birthplace of our nation. The flag and spools here are from a Jolee's sticker set and I thought they were perfect!
 The Betsy Ross House is small, and you can tour it which we did.  We loved the way it looked on the front with the shutters and flag.
Here are Mom and Miss next to Betsy's grave in the courtyard of her home.
 The third top section is for my favorite American Revolutionary, the great James Otis, Jr.  He was called by Samuel Adams, "The Patriot" because he was one of the first to speak out against the crown and to argue for liberty and civil rights.  He is best known for his argument in court against the Writs of Assistance, heavy taxes levied on colonists, as well as unjust search and seizure.  He represented over 60 colonial businesses in his 5 hour argument and trial.  He lost the case, but from that trial was born the spirit of Independence and is what earned him the name "The Patriot." Many from that time considered him to be the originator of the American Revolution.

Included in this section is a bird cage - representing the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and the tyranny of the Crown.  Attached to it is a word tag that says INSPIRE (both are Tim Holtz Ideaology) because it was James Otis who inspired other patriots, which leads to the American Eagle which is free of the cage and has his wings spread wide in independence.  Included in this section is a vial of dirt from James' grave site in the Granary Burial Ground in Boston (Thank you Becky!) and one his home town of Barnstable, Massachusetts.  (Thank you Christy!)
 I was hoping on our first trip to Boston for Melissa's treatment, to maybe be able to find and see the grave of James Otis, Jr.  I talked about it for weeks.  We signed up for a costumed tour guide for the Freedom Trail. All of the guides assume the role of someone from Revolutionary Boston,  and who did we get but James Otis himself!  I couldn't believe it! We all three looked at each other stunned.  Seriously, we could not have planned that.  It's one of those things that only God takes care of and it is also one of those little things that shows that He cares intimately about us and our lives, and assures me that if He cares about the little things in our lives, how much more about the big ones, like my sister's battle with cancer. 
 We were completely new to the New England cemetery and burial ground scene at this point and didn't realize that it is very common for people to leave a stone or coin on a grave marker as a way to pay their respects and as a gesture to show that they had been there.  The next time I visited I left a stone to mark my visit.
 James Otis couldn't believe that I actually knew who he was and what he was famous for, much less that he was my favorite Revolutionary.  He really didn't get how amazing it was to us that he was our tour guide.  Although it says something when I am the only one in all his years doing this tour that actually knew who he was and was excited about it! 
George Washington, one of my second favorite Presidents, is represented here. We never made it to Mount Vernon, George's family home and estate, but a friend did and got me some dirt. (Thanks Christy!) Included here is a pen nib (Tim Holtz Ideaology) an antique quill or pencil sharpener, a bust of George Washington himself and in the back is a nod to his time as a General.  I thought it looked kind of military.  It is a random piece I found in a bag of jewelry junk and I attached the star charm to the front (TH Ideaology) and painted it. Above is a word charm (TH Ideaology) that says Imagine, because I think that George never could have imagined what his life would hold.  I covered the hole on the charm with a star brad. If anyone is going to Valley Forge, I would love to add a small vial of dirt from Valley Forge here since we did make it out there.
In the National Constitution Center, they have 42 life-size bronze statues of all the signers of the Constitution in Signer's Hall, and you can sign it as well in the book in the front of this photograph.  Here we all three are with the statue of George Washington as they try to depict what it might have been like on that day back in 1787. It reminds me of the bust in the project.
On the day we were given the dire news about Melissa, we were so stunned and so shocked, we just didn't know what to do.  We could have gone back to our room and cried and mourned, but that just wasn't how my sister did things.  No, she wanted to take Mom to Valley Forge.  She had been talking about it since our first visit two years before. We had been planning to do a few fun things later in the week if she didn't have more tests, but even in light of her prognosis, she wanted to carry on.   So we went to Valley Forge.  She listened to the movie at the visitor's center and the in-car tour we took driving around, and again, amazed us in that when we got back home, she told people all about how George Washington had rallied and focused the troops during the very long and very cold winter in Valley Forge.   
The next section is for Independence Hall.  It was here that the Declaration of Independence was signed and here that the Constitution of the United States was signed.  I got the magnet at the visitors center as well as the small Liberty Bell, which is located just across the street.  More of the star brads, including the one covering the hole at the top of the Word Stick (TH Ideaology). I chose the word Hold because it is in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
 Also two pen nibs (TH Ideaology) signifying the signing of our two most important documents, and a vial of dirt from Independence Hall.  (Thanks again Christy!)
Here we are in the very room in Independence Hall where both documents were signed. 
And here we are that last day we left Philadelphia to come home.  Melissa didn't feel well at all and the heat and humidity were just oppressive, but on all our previous trips the hall had been covered in screens because they were refurbishing it.  This was the only trip that the screens had been taken down and we wanted a picture.  She pushed through and we made it out there and got that picture bless her heart.  She was one amazing woman!  (A special thank you to the random lady who took this picture for us and also to the nice person at some booth on the lawn who gave me a bottle of cold water for Miss.  There were always caring people around throughout our journeys who blessed us and probably didn't realize how much.)

 The bottom left corner of the project.
In third row, we move from the 1770's to the 1863, then back to the 1770's. The first section is dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg, which commemorates its 150th anniversary this July 1-3, 2013. On the back is a coin of my sister's that says the Battle of Gettysburg and has a picture of a poignant moment in the battle.  More on that later.  Of course a cannon (thanks to the lady at the Dobbin House Tavern for mailing this to me!)  because they are everywhere in Gettysburg, a Civil War era lead bullet that my Grandpa gave me back when I was in 5th grade.  I don't save many things, that was my sister's strength, but somehow managed to keep this without loosing it, and some dirt from the High Water Mark of Pickett's Charge. (Thanks Paul and Kara!)
Here I am at the High Water Mark at the Angle along Cemetery Ridge in the Gettysburg Battle Field. It is the farthest the Confederate line was able to advance before they were beaten back by Union forces and is where the battle of Gettysburg was essentially won by the Union.   
Melissa wasn't as much into famous Americans like James Otis and Abraham Lincoln like I am.  She liked them, but she was much more interested in the stories of the unknowns or the little knowns.  The human interest stories.  On our driving tour of the Gettysburg Battle field, she somehow managed to listen to the CD's and take in all the info and remember it.  Mom and I totally lost it after about the first 15 minutes.  She was amazing!   This was one of the stories that touched her.

From the Friend to Friend monument near Gettysburg National Cemetery -
Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate General Lewis Addison Armistead were personal friends. Although they had served and fought side by side in the United States army prior to the Civil War, Armistead refused to raise his sword against his fellow Southerners and joined the Confederate Army in 1861.

Hancock and Armistead fought heroically in the previous twenty-seven months of the war but eventually met at Gettysburg.  During Pickett's Charge, Armistead led his men gallantly, penetrating Hancock's line at the High Water Mark. Ironically, when Armistead was mortally wounded, Hancock was also wounded.

Depicted in this sculpture is Union Captain Henry Bingham, staff assistant to General Hancock, himself wounded, rendering aid to the fallen Confederate General. Armistead is shown handing his watch and personal effects to be taken to his friend, Union General Hancock, which Bingham did deliver to his lifelong friend. Hancock survived the war and died in 1886. Armistead died at Gettysburg July 5, 1863.

 Melissa with one of the many cannons along Cemetery Ridge.
This box represents Liberty.  I wanted something to do with a Liberty Tree, found in many commons around the colonies where patriots gathered to discuss and make plans for the Revolution.  Since I couldn't really find something for that, I decided to use the bingo numbers and word charm (TH Ideaology) as the theme for this section.  1776 was the year of the battles of Concord and Lexington. Bells were rung in Philadelphia to summon people to Independence Hall to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  The Liberty Bell could very well have been one of those bells. The word Courageous because  it took great courage for those standing on Lexington Green against the British Regulars and those patriots who fought them at the Old North Bridge in Concord where the Shot Heard Round the World was fired.  It also took great courage for the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.  In signing that document they were putting their lives and fortunes on the line for the cause.
 Mom with the Liberty Bell that is now in a building near Independence Hall.
The Minute Men Statue
 Lexington Battle Green, in Lexington, Massachusetts.  700 British Regulars were marching from Boston to Lexington to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams who were staying in a home not far from the green.  They were met by about 70 colonial militia present as most had returned home after waiting for the regulars to appear.  The remaining militia men were actually just making a show of force and not thinking they were going into battle.  Captain Parker had them stand around the green and told them, "Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here."  Soon the small militia found them selves surrounded and a brief battle ensued in which 8 minute men were killed, ten wounded and the British Regulars continued toward Concord and the supposed military supplies stored there.
 The Old North Bridge - sight of the Battle of Concord.  This is actually where the "Shot Heard Round the World" was fired. That is my sister on the bridge.  Word had spread after the minor Battle in Lexington and the minute men began coming from far and near to Concord, the Regulars were on the far side of the river and the militia on the side where I am taking the picture.  The Regulars split up to look for the military supplies and this gave the militia a chance to advance on the regulars here at the bridge.  No one knows who fired the first shot, but in the ensuing battle, the Regulars were overwhelmed and out numbered.   It was a major victory for the colonial militia!

A statue to the Minute Men was also erected on the other side of the North Bridge.
 This bottom center section is for Benjamin Franklin.  What an interesting man!  The magnet in the back was cause for me being stopped and my bag searched at Philadelphia International Airport.  As the woman went through my carry on, and finally found the offending item, she held it up and yelled at the top of her lungs, "IT'S A BEN FRANKLIN MAGNET!"  Why not just yell, "Hey Ya'll! A stupid tourist here put a Ben Franklin magnet in her carry on! Sorry you got held up for a MAGNET!"   Ah the joys of traveling as a scrapbooker.  The Declaration, quill and glasses are all Jolee's, and the vial of dirt is from Christ Church where Ben is buried in the cemetery there. (Thanks again to Christy!)


Mom and Miss in Franklin Court.  The place where he had his home (behind me taking the picture) and his printing and offices as well as the post office in the buildings in the picture.
 Here I am sending hand stamped post cards to friends from the very first post office ever in Franklin Court.  So cool!
 Ben and Deborah Franklin's Grave in Christ Church Burial Ground.  As previously discussed, it is common to leave something on a grave recognizing you have been there and paid your respects.  They leave pennies on Ben's grave because of his saying, "A penny saved is a penny earned."
 Last but not least, the biggest section is for my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln.  The booklet is one I found years ago in an antique store and is of his speeches and addresses.  The bust is a very old one that I also found at an antique store back in the 1980's.  The vial of dirt is from the Gettysburg National Cemetery from the spot where he gave his Gettysburg Address (which I memorized in 5th grade) (Thanks to Paul and Kara for the dirt!) and the Gettysburg battlefield pocket watch is from my sister.  She bought it for me and surprised me with it on our last trip to Gettysburg last summer.



 This is the monument on the sport where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  We missed it on our first time to Gettysburg.  Long story, but it gave us a reason to go back a couple of days later so that we could find it and get a picture.

Melissa placing a penny on the site monument of the Gettysburg Address.  People often place something on grave sites or monuments to signify that they have been there and left their respects.  It is often a stone or some such marker, but in this case, because Lincoln is on the penny, people left pennies on the monument.
Lincoln slept here!  Really!  David Wills House in Gettysburg.
I thought I would end this with a few pictures of places we loved on our trips, this being one of our very favorites, The Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg.  Their King's Onion Soup is the very best out there!  If you are ever in Gettyburg, don't miss this place!!
 
The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts.  We really enjoyed the little seaside town of Salem.
 Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.  Final resting place for many authors including, Ralph Waldo Emerson (grave pictured here), Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melissa is covered up in this picture because the treatment she was undergoing for her cancer used a drug that was photo-sensitive and she had to be completely covered or she would get a horrible sunburn from even just lights in a room. But she didn't just want to stay in the hotel, she wanted to be out living and experiencing things, so off to Concord we went!
The Colonial Inn in Concord, MA.  My two very favorite things there are the lobster mac n cheese and the kramer (1/2 cider and 1/2 iced tea).  On one trip we took our aunt with us.
 We loved Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House in Concord as well.  This is where she wrote Little Women in the room just to the upper left.  And after you do the tour here, go next door to The Wayside, home of the Alcott's, Nathaniel Hawthorne and eventually Margaret Sidney who wrote the Five Little Peppers books and had the foresight with her husband to make the home one of the first preserved as a national historical site.
Sweeney's Tavern in the Farnsworth House Inn.  The food is ok, nothing great, but we enjoyed the atmosphere and it was the place where we tried Hot Buttered Rum. (It was horrific by the way!)

This is blurry, but Melissa wanted to go to Gettysburg on our last day in PA before our flight home.  Like I said, she was amazing.  She was given two weeks to live and she was going to live it.  We did some tours, shopped, drove around and ended our day with King's Onion Soup at the Dobbin House Tavern.   As incredibly difficult as that last day there was, I am so very, very thankful that she was strong enough to ask to go. It was priceless time together.

And so, as you can see, despite battling cancer for 7 1/2 years, she lived life and we have all these precious memories and more to remember her by.  I am so looking forward to meeting her in Heaven and continuing our love of learning and adventure together.  If we had this much fun together here, and we saw God's hand in it all along the way, how much more fun and adventure will we have in Heaven with Him and each other, where there will be no cancer and no illness and no tears and never ever any more death. 

5 comments:

Bobbi said...

Oh my goodness, absolutely beautifully written. And as hard as it was for me to read it, I can imagine how much harder it was for you to create your patriotic box, and add the wonderful memories along the way, well done!!

Love Mom

Susan Stringfellow said...

WOW!!! This is so special and just gorgeous! I love all the stories and the pieces but those photos are awesome! My fave is the one of Melissa and the canon, really pretty. You guys must have had the most fun! You are so lucky

Kim said...

Tami~ While I was saddened to remember your sister's brave battle, I am amazed at her strength! Beautiful woman and wonderful post! You have inspired us to get off our bums and go back to the East Coast! Rob and I loved totally immersing ourselves in the history there! Next time you are there, please make Mt. Vernon a priority!! Washington was the original do-it-yourselfer! He was a frugal man that loved the look of finer things. It was really interesting!

Kim

Sandy Young said...

Truly a beautiful story. So glad you had those last few weeks with your sister and were able to make such strong memories.
Love the shadow box as well.

Laura Jean (LJ) said...

wow. this is amazing. having just getting home from spending time in Philadelphia myself right now I just a have a deeper appreciation of the work that went into this. what an amazing art piece to remember the time spent with Melissa in our nation's birthplace. beautiful and inspiring (now I am wishing I collected some dirt vials myself).