A Valentine’s Day Gift to Remember
By Craig Bogley
I have created three memory books in the last five years. One of those books was to remember my special cousin, Stuart, and another was for the husband of my cousin, Cathy.
Between two movie nights, a couple of sessions at the gym, and a day trip here and there, my wife Linda and I see our cousin Cathy four or five times a week. With our family “growing” smaller, I really wanted to create something special for Linda and for Cathy to enjoy while they were still alive (because other books I have created were dedications after people had passed away). What better DAY to present the gifts than Valentine’s Day, a day about love? What better WAY to celebrate love than a special memory book that, as you turn each page, shows a precious memory from a cherished friend or family member with whom you have a mutual loving relationship?
Fast forward to our Valentine’s Day celebration. At 6 PM, after opening cards and candy, I brought out Linda’s book. As I showed Linda and Cathy the cover of the book, I said “this was jury duty.” This was lunch with the guys, lunch with the girls, this was my part-time job. This was six hours spent looking through three flash drives for pictures and getting physical photos scanned. This was all of the other excuses I used when I was away or tied up working on this special memory book during this exciting yet challenging four-month undertaking. It was challenging because I was creating books for both ladies - gifts that, hopefully, would be a SURPRISE to both Linda and Cathy, despite the length of the project and number of people involved!
Linda knew I was doing something because I had already told her that the upstairs bedroom was off-limits. I closed the door every day and put a suitcase in front of it just in case she “accidentally” forgot. I also told her that my phone was off-limits. There were more than 60 initial participants helping me work on the book. At least half of them were Linda and Cathy’s girlfriends, former bosses, and others that were not in my contact list. As the three of us spend a lot of time together, I could neither take the chance nor be able to explain why any of Cathy’s or Linda’s girlfriends or contacts would be calling ME.
Anyway, I told her I was making something in the bedroom upstairs. But, she knows I’m not mechanically inclined, so to confuse her even more, I planned a little subterfuge. When she returned from an errand one afternoon, I waited until she was almost to the back door, then ran to the basement and begin cutting a couple of boards with my circular saw I had purchased 30 years earlier and used maybe twice. A few minutes later I came upstairs and said something lame like, “When did you get home?” Then I added, “the basement is now off-limits also.”
I digress. Back to presenting the book. I sat between Linda and Cathy on the couch and turned the pages of Linda’s book. I did not tell Cathy that I had also prepared a book for her.
I read the dedication to Linda’s book and they laughed and Linda kissed me. I turned the pages slowly so they could look at the pictures but saved most of the memories for Linda to read later. I read aloud a few of the memories and maybe an excerpt or two from other memories as we went along. They loved the quality of the book, the colors, and the way the pages were designed so they weren’t all the same. I read the thank you paragraph from the Contributors page and they could see all the wonderful people who contributed loving memories.
Then, I left the couch and went over to my desk and came back with Cathy’s book and we did the same thing. She teared up because she knew how good it was going to be because we had just gone through Linda’s book and she knew how wonderful that had been. It took about an hour and a half to go through the highlights of each book. The books were a combined 150 pages.
Then we spent another hour with them asking questions and me explaining the process and how the book evolved as we went along . . . like adding the name, the dedication, my favorite pictures of us, the “Remembering” section (which included our most beloved friends, relatives and even our pets), and the Contributors page.
After I returned from taking Cathy home, Linda was reading her book. She continued reading (some of the memories out loud to me) and she laughed and loved it all, finishing the book at almost midnight.
As I retired for the evening, Cathy sent me a final text that said . . .
” . . I hope you will sleep well tonight. I am awe-inspired by the accomplishment of not one but two beautiful books! What a feat!”
I went peacefully to sleep knowing that Santa had come and gone. In the days counting down to this unveiling event, I felt like a child at Christmas anxiously awaiting giving, not receiving, the gift. They loved it! I felt very blessed.
Dedication: Thank you, Lorrie Curley, for helping me make this happen! You sorted through hundreds of emails from me and 89 other contributors, categorized 540 pictures (many with captions), and carefully organized each memory. Later, you fully designed each page by adding color, setting the fonts, framing each picture with a white border (which made them look awesome!) and adding many, many other final touches that only you could’ve done! I can’t thank you enough!