Sixty Years Of Memories

For my dad's 60th birthday last week, I wanted to do something really fun. My dad and I talk a lot about the past---nostalgia runs in our blood, I think---and we both love to reminisce. Inspired by Jordan Ferney's Postcard Birthday Poster, I started batting around an idea: what if I could get everyone from my dad's past to contribute a memory they had of him? What if I had all those people send their memories to me, and then I put each one into an envelope---sixty total, of course---and had him open them, one by one, on his birthday?

That would be a lot of memories, right?

So I wrote an email. I sent it to family, to friends, to aunties and uncles we'd grown up calling aunties and uncles even though they weren't related by blood. This is what I said:

Hello everyone!

If you're receiving this email, you probably know that our dad, Patrick Burns, is turning 60 next month (much as he would hate us to be reminding everyone, I'm sure.) To celebrate his birthday, we'd like to put together a little surprise to let him know that his nearest and dearest are thinking of him. We're going to try and create "60 Years of Memories" by filling 60 envelopes with a memory his friends and family have of him.

And this is where you come in!

If you have a spare moment in the next few days, we would be so grateful if you'd jot down a favorite memory you have of our dad and put it in the post. It doesn't have to be anything fancy -- you can just write it down on a piece of paper and sign your name. You can mention anything you like -- although the more nostalgic the better! Please absolutely feel free to send more than one memory (in fact, we welcome it -- we've got 60 envelopes to fill!), but make sure you write them on different pieces of paper (and sign your name to each) so we can split them up.

Thank you so, so, so much for participating -- we know everyone is busy with their own lives, and we do appreciate you taking a few minutes to do this; it will be so worth it when he reads all the memories people have of him! (Please don't forget to keep it a surprise until then, though!)

Thank you so much again.

--Holly, Tom, Luke, and Susie

(I also gave them my address, of course, though I've obviously left it out here. Not that I don't want to open the door and have you standing there wielding a steak knife, but it might be kind of awkward for both of us.)

So I sent the email and then I waited. And then the replies started coming in and I was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted, Internet, and I do not use that word lightly. There were so many memories, and they were all so lovely. They came from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, from every decade between now and the day my dad was born. They came from my mother, my siblings, my grandma, my dad's friends from high school, his sister, an old girlfriend, my mother's old boyfriend, my dad's first boss, a colleague at his first job, from people who remembered people no longer with us, from people who hadn't seen my dad in forty years, from people I hadn't even contacted originally but who had been told about the project by someone else. They typed them and handwrote them. They mailed them and emailed them. I collected them for two weeks, my heart pinging with excitement each time a new one arrived.

The night before his birthday, my sister and I stayed up late, putting everything together. I had some vintage airmail envelopes left over from my wedding—I found them on ebay a few years ago—and I bought a packet of numbered stickers at Michaels after a fraught half hour of anxious math, trying to decide how many we'd need. We numbered the envelopes from one to 60, then we tucked a different memory into each.

And then, on the morning of his birthday, after breakfast and presents and cake, we gave them to him. "Just one more thing for you," we said.

It took him a really, really, really long time to open them. Each one was a brief ticket to another time, a leap backwards over years and decades into the past. There was a lot of laughter, and---I don't think my dad will mind me telling you this---a few tears too.

There were also a couple of emerging themes:

a) My dad locks himself out a lot

b) My dad may have had a little too much to drink upon occasion during his rugby-playing years

c) My dad often has trouble remembering to bring his passport on international trips.

I'm thinking at least two of those three might have been related, what do you say?

In a way, I'm sort of sad that this project is over because it was a huge amount of fun to collect and collate all of these memories, many of them occuring years before I was even born. It gave me a different picture of my dad, one woven together by all the people from his past, all those people who---weirdly, peripherally, slowly, surely---put into action the sequence of events that led to my life as I know it.

Turns out, you can make a lot of memories in sixty years. And then, if you're lucky, you can relive them all over again.

 

451
Laura
Jan 27, 2012

I read this through tears...for my parents 40th Anniversary I got each one of their children, grandchildren, and son and daughter in laws to do a scrapbook page with pictures,and a short message about what they meant to each one of us. Their 50th Anniversary is in October, but we are celebrating early, with a trip to a lakehouse the summer with the entire family....I'm so going to surprise them with this gift!! Thanks for the inspiration!!!!

452
tracy
Jan 27, 2012

Thank you Soooooo much for sharing your idea...but more importantly...your beautiful story.

453
Kelly
Jan 27, 2012

What an awesome idea...seriously thoughtful. I love it.

454
Dorothy
Jan 28, 2012

I just modified this and sent it out via email and as an event on facebook for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. Thank you for the idea! Once they open the envelopes we are going to put them in an album for them to treasure.

455
babybluewater
Jan 29, 2012

What an awesome idea! Thank you so much for sharing.

456
eve
Jan 29, 2012

what a fab idea, my 50th soon and would love this x

457
Alicia Epperly
Jan 31, 2012

Thank you so much for sharing this idea. I'm currently numbering envelopes and stuffing memories in them for my own dad. I just know he will be thrilled with this gift.

458
Em
Feb 01, 2012

I just blogged about this on my own blog. Linked back to you too. Take a look...
http://emcards-em.blogspot.com/2012/02/shh-it-is-surprise.html

459
Kim
Feb 01, 2012

Thanks for sharing this! My daughter and I are actually doing this right now (I can't wait for the responses to start coming in) however we are doing this for my parents 50th anniversary in which we are throwing them a surprise party. I can't wait to hand them a stack of 50 envelopes filled with precious and thoughtful memories. This is a very creative and heart warming idea.
Thanks from Vermont!

460
Michele M
Feb 01, 2012

This is truly amazing. Your dad may have only shed a few tears, I was crying like a baby as I read this. haha

461
yomo
Feb 01, 2012

Just saw this on Pinterest. I did something similar for my Dad's 80th, and it was a huge hit. He read them out loud at his party, and everyone loved it. A few months later, he was diagnosed with cancer, one that was too far along to treat. He went far too quickly. I grabbed these notes from his house on my way to the hospital. As he lay dying, we took turns reading them again, aloud. Some made us cry, and many of them made us laugh. At first, it seemed wrong to be laughing by his side at such a time, but then my mother said, "It's not a bad way to go." I know he loved the notes the first time he saw them, and I'm pretty sure he loved hearing them the second time, too. What a life! What a gift you gave your Dad, and what a gift you've given God knows how many Moms and Dads when you decided to share your idea.

462
LAmamma
Feb 01, 2012

Lovely. What a heartfelt and most thoughtful gift. Wonderful for your father to have you as a daughter.

463
Audrey
Feb 01, 2012

This is a wonderful idea that you came up with - so meaningful for everyone involved, and especially so for your dad.

464
Lauren
Feb 02, 2012

I love this idea! I did something similar this past year for my dad's 50th. I had loved ones from over the years make 5 minute videos of themselves sharing memories or sending a message. Then I made a video slideshow and interspersed the videos with tons of pictures. It ended up turning out so great! Thoughtful gifts like these are the most memorable!

465
Dianna Van Hees Conlon
Feb 02, 2012

This is a priceless idea. Definitely going to borrow it. =)

466
Caroline
Feb 04, 2012

Wow, this is amazing. I think this is going to be my dad's birthday present in March.

467
Mary
Feb 04, 2012

Wow! I only wish that my Mother were still living so I could do this for her. My Dad will be 80 his next birthday and this would be an amazing gift for him. Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea. God bless you.

468
carla giacchino
Feb 06, 2012

I found this on Pinterest. and literally cried. I thought thank you God my Dad and Mom are still with me, but so many of my parents friends have passed. it would've been nice to have their memories included. Thank you for such a wonderful idea.

469
sue
Feb 07, 2012

Great idea..and thanks too. My Father in law turns 100 in March. I was looking for ideas and this one is great!

I had a smiliar idea too... I am making a scrap book for him and found some neat sheets that say "family story" so I will be using this to put his letters (stories)in his book with after he reads them.

470
danielle
Feb 07, 2012

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS IDEA!!!! I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING IT FOR
MY DADS 60TH - I HAVE HIS OLD SCHOOL FRIENDS-FRATERNITY BROTHERS- FAMILY MEMBERS ECT IN ON IT AND IM HAVING SO MUCH FUN!!!!!! THANK YOU AGAIN! MY DAD IS GOING TO LOVE ITT!

471
danielle
Feb 07, 2012

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS IDEA!!!! I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING IT FOR
MY DADS 60TH - I HAVE HIS OLD SCHOOL FRIENDS-FRATERNITY BROTHERS- FAMILY MEMBERS ECT IN ON IT AND IM HAVING SO MUCH FUN!!!!!! THANK YOU AGAIN! MY DAD IS GOING TO LOVE ITT!

472
danielle
Feb 07, 2012

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS IDEA!!!! I'M IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING IT FOR
MY DADS 60TH - I HAVE HIS OLD SCHOOL FRIENDS-FRATERNITY BROTHERS- FAMILY MEMBERS ECT IN ON IT AND IM HAVING SO MUCH FUN!!!!!! THANK YOU AGAIN! MY DAD IS GOING TO LOVE ITT!

473
annemkemp
Feb 07, 2012

I LOVE this idea - I'm getting ready for hubby's 60th (2013) so just a little over a year...I can do this :) Thanks so much for sharing!

474
annemkemp
Feb 07, 2012

I LOVE this idea - I'm getting ready for hubby's 60th (2013) so just a little over a year...I can do this :) Thanks so much for sharing!

475
Donne Milano
Feb 08, 2012

Amazing...I can't believe that someone can do a beautiful thing like this.

476
Christie
Feb 08, 2012

This is an amazing idea. I plan on 'stealing' it and doing it for my husbands 50th birthday next year. Abolutely love it!!

477
Addi
Feb 10, 2012

No way!!!!

This is amazing!!!!

478
martha
Feb 10, 2012

Thirty years ago we did something similar for my grandma's 85th birthday. All 20 of her grandchildren and 40 great-grands typed out our memories of time spent with her and grandpa, who had passed years earlier. We presented it in a binder complete with pictures and a family tree. As grandkids, we enjoyed it so much we also made a copy for each family. (This was 30 years ago so we spent a lot of time doing it by hand and using the Xerox machine!)She often commented how much she enjoyed her wonderful gift.

479
Mona
Feb 10, 2012

My dad hated getting gifts. For his 65th, I sat down and recorded my favorite memories from my childhood that involved my extended family. I was lucky to have relatives on both sides of my family that lived close enough to share many events, visits, and memories. When I had finished (My dad took me to get my first pair of high heeled shoes at 13. It was an adventure for us both. One of my very favorite memories), I typed it up in large font. It was several pages long. I had included memories of both my siblings, grandparents, and close relatives. He loved it. I was told that he not only kept it, but read it from time to time. I just wanted him to know how much I loved him how he had influenced my life.

480
Ann
Feb 10, 2012

My Mom's 80th birthday is in May so I sent this idea to my 6 siblings & we're going to do this for her! I can't wait!

481
Sheila
Feb 10, 2012

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this with us. My Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia 5 years ago. The doctors are saying that he has about 6 months left. He has lost most of his memories and is in the process of losing his ability to know us and communicate with us. I have two boys that I intend to give these letters to at my Dad's funeral. It may seem morbid, and I am sorry about that. But my Dad has been sick for so long, and sometimes it is hard to remember who my Dad really is, because of his degenerative brain disease. This idea will enable me to collect memories that my Dad has lost and many that my boys don't even know. I pray that I will get this together soon enough to be able to share them with my Dad before it is too late and then package them up in envelopes to give to our sons and my mom to keep his memory alive after he passes! Thanks again for sharing, you'll never know the blessing this has been for me.

482
Mimi Kolb
Feb 10, 2012

We gave my dad, a skinny guy with a major sweet-tooth, 60 little pastries for 60 years. But a collection of memories lasts so much longer. Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

483
Melissa V.
Feb 10, 2012

Thank you so much for sharing this. I Was looking for something new and thoughtful to give my Dad for his 65th. I've got all the letters and are putting them together tonight for my Dad's Suprise 65th Birthday Party tomorrow. I can't wait! I'm sure he'll love it. Thanks again for sharing.

484
Terry Berki
Feb 12, 2012

I love your idea for your Dad. How creative!!

485
Terry Berki
Feb 12, 2012

I love your idea for your Dad. How creative!!

486
Kate Sins
Feb 12, 2012

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful idea. I'm in the middle of doing this for my Mum at the moment. I've even created a blog for it so all the contributors can read what everyone has said. Her party's on Feb 25 so the big unveiling will be then. I hope she likes it!

487
Em
Feb 14, 2012

I have added another blog post about this and it can be seen here http://emcards-em.blogspot.com/2012/02/gifts-are-taking-shape.html

488
lizbeth
Feb 15, 2012

I did this for a friend with terminal cancer (with help
from his daughter). It was wonderful listening to him
reminisce as he read them. Tons of laughter!

489
Kristi
Feb 15, 2012

What a beautiful thing you did for your sweet dad. My dad will be 71 this year...last year was full of stuff to celebrate his 70th...but I don't think he would mind 71 memories! Thanks for the ideas...and by the way, where did you purchase the envelopes?? :)

490
Renee
Feb 16, 2012

YOU are a beautiful person! What an amazing idea. Thank you for sharing it so brilliantly with us! I am definitely going to follow your blog. This was my first time reading it. What a special lady you are!!

491

I'm so glad I Stumbled on this post. My mom is about to turn 60 in 6 weeks and she needs something like this. I know I can't find enough people to send me 60 memories but I'm going to try to write it up with the help of my brother to bind and give to her.

Thanks for the inspiration!

492
Tomas
Feb 20, 2012

You did an amazing and unbelievable job, Holy, you have inspired me. Collecting 60 letters to remind your dad's memories, so touching. wow.

493
Andy
Feb 20, 2012

What a great idea Holy, I am going to like this for my mom, don't tell anyone, okay. Thanks Holy. LOL

494
Elizabeth
Feb 20, 2012

This is such a wonderful idea, my dad is a college basketball coach and has had the chance to meet MANY people during his lifetime. The responses I am getting are great, and I have over 200 so far (he's only turning 47!) but he has had a tough few years in his career and I think this is the perfect opportunity to show him just how many people he has blessed and has blessed him. Thank you so much for sharing!

495
Isabel
Feb 20, 2012

Ah, that was a wonderful thing to do, thx for sharing! Reminded me of the "liber amicorum"(which means "book of my friends" in Latin) I put together for my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. It's essentially the same thing. So nice, there was a party too, and I remember people who didn't know each other being very friendly in a co conspirator-like manner before the book was presented.

496
Melvin
Feb 21, 2012

I belive that any one can do this if I can

497
Naked Girl in a Dress
Feb 21, 2012

What an amazing gift you gave him. It was beautifully presented too.

498
Naked Girl in a Dress
Feb 21, 2012

What an amazing gift you gave him. It was beautifully presented too.

499
Naked Girl in a Dress
Feb 21, 2012

What an amazing gift you gave him. It was beautifully presented too.

500
Carrie
Feb 21, 2012

I love this idea! I love it so much I have been working on doing it for my dad. He turns 68 tomorrow. I have been amazed at how many wonderful memories People have of him. There are so many I think I'll have to put more than one memory in each envelope.
Thanks for sharing the idea!

501
Carrie P
Feb 21, 2012

I love this idea! I love it so much I have been working on doing it for my dad. He turns 68 tomorrow. I have been amazed at how many wonderful memories People have of him. There are so many I think I'll have to put more than one memory in each envelope.
Thanks for sharing the idea!
Carrie

502
Anitra
Feb 21, 2012

What a wonderful gesture (and a lot of hard work!)

503
Meg
Feb 23, 2012

We did something similar. When my grandparents reached 80, all the grandchildren wrote letters to each of them. I do like how you reached out to friends, neighbors, ect.

504
Meg
Feb 23, 2012

We did something similar. When my grandparents reached 80, all the grandchildren wrote letters to each of them. I do like how you reached out to friends, neighbors, ect.

505
Dianne
Feb 23, 2012

We did that for my mother's 83rd birthday and it was wonderful... we couldn't be there and she got to open them all. She died at 85 so it was a great memory... I made copies of all the letters.
YOu had a great idea! I love the pics!

506
Jevvv
Feb 24, 2012

Wow! So simple and so lovely!

My Dad turns 75 next year and thanks to you I think I have the perfect present for him :)

He's a story person, loves sharing stories so this will be our turn to return it to him.

507
Terri
Feb 25, 2012

Just read this blog this morning. My husband turns 50 this year. I was informed by him last night that he does not want a party. He does not want me to go thru the trouble. Well, I believe I am going to do this instead and go on a cruise. Either should be no "trouble" for me. Thank you for the idea and beautifully written blog. Now to start on the fifty list.

508
Debra McGowan
Feb 25, 2012

WOW! My 60th is coming upon me this year... would LOVE to have this happen to me!! Lots and lots of memories from varying types of people I associated with through my 32 years of singleness.. and then 27 years of married bliss!! Would absolutely love this!! and thoughts toward my aunt's 80th birthday coming up this year as well!!

509
Connie
Feb 25, 2012

Fabulous idea! I am going to do this for my husband and my Dad and my Aunt as well. Thank you!

510
Pam
Feb 25, 2012

what a great idea! I am doing this right now for my dad's 80th birthday. I hope he enjoys reading the memories as much as I did when I was collecting them. thanks for sharing this!

Pam

511
christy
Feb 25, 2012

I will write something about how awesome this is after I stop blubbering like a baby and fix my makeup. My dad is gone last year and I wish I would have done this. Awesome!! Everyone out there..DO THIS!

512
Mary Ann
Feb 25, 2012

What a wonderful thing you did for your father. Great idea!

513
Sandy
Feb 25, 2012

How do you remove tears from a keyboard? What an emotional gift! I'm going to borrow your lovely idea for my daughter's 40th...I'm sure I'll learn a lot about her person while I've mostly know her as my child. Thank you for posting!

514
Meredith
Feb 25, 2012

In a similar vein, but turned around ... my mother (by way of my grandmother) gave me an amazing gift for my 30th birthday. She had moved to America when she was 23 (in the 70's) and had written letters to her mother. My grandmother kept them. They spanned from 23, to meeting my father, to being pregnant with me, and a few after my birth. (at that point phone calls were getting cheaper and her time for writing letters dwindled!).
She gave me this stack of letters. It was so amazing to read the things going on in my mothers head when she was my age. It was a beautiful gift.

So I also love this idea, and I wish I had contact information for more of my mothers friends, relatives and old co-workers. I'd love to be able to do this for her. (my father too!). Gives me something to work on. Lovely blog!

515
Stacey
Feb 26, 2012

This is so awesome! We have had Birthday cards sent to match the number of years of age for my husbands grandmother but never thought to do it this way. So great!!!

516
Sheila
Feb 26, 2012

this is such a beautiful idea. i am going to do this for my mom.

517
Sheila
Feb 26, 2012

this is such a beautiful idea. i am going to do this for my mom.

518
Sheila
Feb 26, 2012

this is such a beautiful idea. i am going to do this for my mom.

519
Sheila
Feb 26, 2012

I found this on stumble upon. i am going to do this when my mom turns either 44, 45, or 50. I can't decide.

520
Nancy
Mar 01, 2012

This is the most awesome thing I have ever seen for a Beautiful memory-catcher...I so wish my Dad was still here so I could do something this neat for him. Your family is so lucky to have you in it!!! Thanks for sharing this beautiful idea/so many people!!

521
Nancy
Mar 01, 2012

This is the most awesome thing I have ever seen for a Beautiful memory-catcher...I so wish my Dad was still here so I could do something this neat for him. Your family is so lucky to have you in it!!! Thanks for sharing this beautiful idea/so many people!!

522
Ashley Rock
Mar 02, 2012

Wow-- what an AMAZING idea!!!! My grandma is turning 90 this year, I am definately going to do this for her- THANK YOU soooo much for sharing this. How wonderful

523
Vicki
Mar 03, 2012

Some of the BEST gifts don't cost anything other than the thought and taking the time. When the love is there, you take the time. No amount of money can't buy that kind of gift. A gift from the heart, touches the heart. You scored!

524
Jennifer
Mar 03, 2012

Thank you for this awesome idea. We did this for my dad's 60th birthday and it was very special.

Here's my version: http://www.pigskinsandpigtails.com/2012/03/dads-60th-birthday-party-60-m...

525
Ashleigh
Mar 03, 2012

What a great idea! I wish I had more than 10 days until my own father's 60th birthday! I'll hav to keep this in mind for the next milestone! Loved this!

526
Kimberly
Mar 03, 2012

I loved this and could almost imagine all the funny and wonderful memories and yes I cried too, but I cry when someone else family is at the airport departing. lol

527
Sarah
Mar 06, 2012

I LOVE this idea, so sweet!

528
rani primmer
Mar 06, 2012

That is really an awesome idea! What a beautiful and memorable gift to give your dad.

529
Carole
Mar 07, 2012

May I copy your letter? It's really hard to imagine composing a better one.

530
Nadia
Mar 08, 2012

I found you via Pinterest. I love this idea! It is just the kind of keepsake gift I love to give! Thank you for sharing this!

531
Amy
Mar 08, 2012

Thank you so much for posting this.

My Mom just celebrated her 65th, and boy was this so much fun to do for her.

Plan on doing it for my Dad later this year.

532
Angela Eden
Mar 08, 2012

I got teary-eyed reading this! Such an amazing gift! I wanna do this for my mom!

533
danielle
Mar 08, 2012

Wow! I actually teared up reading this! This was a fantastic thing you did for your dad. I am now storing this in my 'to-do' area for when my parents hit milestone birthdays. I love it. Thanks for sharing :-)

534
Marie
Mar 11, 2012

The older I get the more emotional I become about family and nostalgia. What a beautiful gift you have given your father, all the friends and family you included by asking for memories, and to all of us reading your personal account of love. My father will turn 70 next year and I am starting tomorrow to gather memories to gift to him. Actually, I think I'll start tomorrow in gathering memories for everyone I love (my daughter will be graduating from college next year and I'm still in contact with many of her childhood friends, there's a new baby due for another family member and what could be better than gifting a new mom with memories of her very own childhood, etc). Thank you for sharing your heart and giving me an idea of another way to share mine!

535
Steph
Mar 12, 2012

Wow, thanks for a great idea! I am for sure going to do this! I can only imagine how touched your father must have been. Priceless!

536
roxana
Mar 13, 2012

I'm in love with your idea...And I can't belive I found out that exactly on my father's birthday...Wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

537
Gavin Anderson
Mar 13, 2012

What an absolutely wonderful and thoughtful idea! Beautiful!

538
Gavin Anderson
Mar 13, 2012

What an absolutely wonderful and thoughtful idea! Beautiful!

539
Lori
Mar 13, 2012

What a wonderful idea! The joy on your dad's face as he was reading the letters is priceless.

540
Lori
Mar 13, 2012

What a wonderful idea! The joy on your dad's face as he was reading the letters is priceless.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
Just to make sure you have a pulse
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.