GREAT FALLS, Va. - A smell or sound can instantly call up a memory, but author Kristin Clark Taylor says sometimes we need a little more -- like the tangible items that mean the most.
Her well-worn cedar chest is what she calls her "forever box." It's a wooden case for the baubles, papers, and tokens that represent her most special memories.
"I put a little note on each one," Taylor explained.
In her new book The Forever Box, Taylor takes readers on a journey through her collection of memories. She shows why its important to preserve the little things that mean the most to us.
Collecting Our Past
The items in Taylor's box, and more importantly the stories behind them, have taught her and her children about life.
A glass ball filled with sand was a gift from Taylor's mother Mary Elizabeth Clark. Attached is a special verse, "Christ the solid rock I stand, all other things are simply sand."
Also in the forever box is the christening gown made by Taylor's mother for her and her six siblings.
"She took a lot of time on it," Taylor recalled. "There were some times when, with seven children, you can tell... when some times she got a little tired or, you know, the needle wasn't exactly right. But that's what I love about it."
Tea cups and saucers that a young Taylor and her older friend sipped from during long visits take her back in time to memories of a warm house filled with the smell of homemade biscuits and the sounds of Bible verses read aloud.
More recently, Taylor added momentos from her time working in the White House during the George H.W. Bush administration.
"I'm going on to glory and before I do, I just want to make sure that I've shared the earthly, tangible, touchable things that are important in my life," she explained.
More than Memories
Many items in Taylor's forever box have helped her teach her children important lessons -- like her mother's church hat.
"This is the original hat box that she gave it to me in," Taylor said.
Mary Elizabeth Clark had saved money to buy a beautiful hat she'd seen at a store near her home in Detroit. She called ahead and asked the clerk to put the hat on hold.
But when Clark arrived to purchase it, the clerk realized the color of her skin and wouldn't even let her try it on. Determined, Clark bought new cloth and made the hat now in Taylor's box.
"This ended up being far more beautiful, I think, than probably the one in the store. Beautiful for so many different reasons," Taylor said.
"Beautiful because she made it with her own hands, but beautiful because it just spoke to how resourceful she was and how resilient," she said.
"How hatred or bitterness just wasn't in her lexicon," Taylor continued. "It just wasn't something that we have in our lives at all."
The hat is a tangible item that Taylor's daughter -- who shares her grandmother's name -- could hold as her mother shared the story and the lesson.
Taylor says being a memory-maker binds us to something larger than ourselves. In her book, she offers tips to beginners.
"What a comfort it is to know that our vision and our values can burn on as brightly as the North Star, but only for as long as we fan their flames," she writes. "How long is that? Forever. If we do it right."