Have you ever owned a shadowbox? All of my life I have been somewhat fascinated by the feast for the eyes they give. From the one in my great Aunt Redia’s sewing room to many various ones I had seen while growing up in the 1970’s, a time when shadow boxes were more popular. However, I’ve noticed (from Pinterest) that shadow boxes are making a comeback and feature everything from forest themes to old keys or words made from scrabble letters! Children grow out of playing with dolls and dollhouses but when we grow we still carry with us pieces of our “collection” at lease in our hearts. Universally, it seems that a lot of people still love the imaginative storybook house, the miniature cottage or collecting tiny things that make one feel the essence of home.
What one would put in a shadowbox would differ from person to person but it could tell us a little about the phases of our lives. It may range from the tiniest things that we have collected since childhood right up to the recent autumn leaves that fell yesterday. These things shed a bit of light on our personalities and memories or concepts that are meaningful to us. It might tell the story of our love of nature or of hiking, or ballet dancing, our hobbies or our mementos from trips taken.
Someone I know (daughter) has an affinity for beauty and small details. She mentioned to me earlier in the season that she would like to have a shadow box for her room. The first was made by her father who fitted an old frame that had been handcrafted for me years ago by my cousin, Kirk. My husband picked up where he had left off, giving it new life as a shadow box. We filled it with woodland creatures, and treasures that said, “Autumn” with their brown, orange and golden tones...such as a chipmunk ornament, a gifted rabbit and turtle from my cousin whose husband had originally built the frame. We added in some pinecones from our various cross country road trips; a hobnail style vase I’ve had for as long as I can remember. I had also given her an oval, wooden makeup or jewelry organizer of mine which she repurposed with a menagerie of tiny birds, flowers and butterflies.
I unexpectedly came across a cubby shelf for two dollars at the local thrift store. Before long it was brimming with acorns, small seashells, some antique spools of thread that my mom contributed to her collection. Before long it contained such baubles as such as old toys and keys, a minute bouquet of baby’s breath, two coins with Queen Elizabeth’s profile and similar treasures. To complete the set of shadowboxes, kind of like “a partridge in a pear tree” song, a day after Christmas, my husband was able to get the vintage printers tray for next to nothing on Craigslist.
I went on a scavenger hunt through the home and garage for tiny things that would fit in the cubbies. I was delighted to discover some of my old doll furniture from the earliest Christmas I can remember just happened to fit into the slot. A mini violin, propped in one of the spaces to give a meaningful nod to her interest in and pursuit to play violin. The “shelves” also became a home to small snippets of words in German from some of my music books; to highlight her study and love of the German language. My mom found a spool and some silk thread and an acorn top spin toy. I found some other objects, dice, bunnies, that had been stored away. My husband also took on a refurbish project to give as a gift: a discarded Victorian style floor mirror that he carefully sanded and stripped of the old coating, and firmed up the joints, and stained in a dark oak. It turned out so beautiful!
With Christmas over and the new year approaching I had took time to reflect about the events of the week.
This year Christmas has been what some would term “lean”. The kind where some were homemade presents or either upcycled thrift store finds, repurposed. I made a home sign and monogrammed sign from large blocks from my dad’s woodpile.
In fact, homemade, refurbished, and repurposed would be a good way to describe the WHOLE season. From the beginning, I made simple Scandinavian stars for our tree topper out of sticks from outside, and recovered tired glittery, blingy Christmas balls with strips of drop cloth to give them that primitive farmhouse look. We decorated with leaves, holly and bits of pine and tree trimmings. For Christmas day we had an easy crock pot recipe. We set the table beautifully and ate by candlelight. We just truly enjoyed each other and played a game called. “How well do we know each other?” (Where you have to guess which written statements go with which person.) We know each other pretty well but we learned new things too! As I reflect an muse over the small pieces of paper remnants with scribbled answers to questions like “What’s your favorite time of day?”, “What electronic device do you find most useful?” or “Do you have any favorite words?”, I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything by not breaking the bank. My heart is rich and full and not “lean” as some might think because something beautiful and creative can spring out of nothing, where there is love. I’m so grateful for the moments we have together because in the end it is not about the decorating, the gifts or the presents or whether they were from shops, the mall or handmade with love; It is really just about the love that God has put in our home and being together. I won’t leave you wondering if that’s the only gift received or if we spent a little money because we did get them something else as well—but the point is, that the gifts that I enjoyed giving the most were the ones given from the heart with something of our own soul.