From the time Gage began to speak, he loved to stand in front of our refrigerator and try out his new skills. “Mama! Da!” he would say, pointing to the pictures I’d hung there. But he wasn’t content with just showing off his verbiage. He wanted to touch the pictures. “Ownie!” he’d demand. We still aren’t sure where that word came from, but we knew what it meant: “Give it to me now, and no one gets hurt.”
The thing is, I wanted those pictures of his mama and da to remain intact — unwrinkled, unrumpled, untorn. So I’d try to distract him as we walked past the fridge. “Look, Gage! A sink!”
Then one day he spotted the photos in my wallet. The sharp intake of his breath caused a ripple in the nearby Fichus tree. “Da! Auntie! Momo!” (his first name for Grandpa).
I pulled them out and tried to have a polite exchange of, “I’ll show you the pictures and you don’t touch them.” But he just laughed at that idea.
I took to hiding my wallet after that.
So when my friend, Cathy, told me about how her granddaughter, Aurelia, liked to hold the photos of Cathy and her husband, Wayne, I could relate. She said, “I decided to get duplicates made and frame them for her. Then she can carry them around.”
The moment Cathy told me her plan, I started thinking. That would work brilliantly for Gage. A picture of Grandpa and Grandma (as he now calls us. I miss Momo and Shanny … primarily because it made me feel like I was starring in an 80’s detective show. But I digress) … and of course, Da, Mama, Auntie. But then I started thinking, Why stop there?
And that is the story of Gage’s pictures. I made a list of his family on both sides, and his “uncles” (friends of his Da’s), and his friends from our church (Katelynn and Carter). And then I decided to add our two dogs, Hunter and Larry. And since Gage is so Toy Story-crazy right now (“Woody, Buzz. Watch, Grandma?), I had to add Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Bullseye.
I decided not to frame them in pretty frames, like Cathy had chosen for her granddaughter. Aurelia might be a dainty, careful, responsible two-year old, but my Gage is … a boy. I needed frames that could withstand a normal Gage-day, which includes lots of slobbering, dropping, and tossing against a wall. And since he loved the fridge so much, I wanted frames he could stick there, should the notion occur to him. I found just what I needed at the Dollar Store in town — 4×6 plexiglass frames with a magnet on the back. (If you live within Snohomish County and want to do this yourself … so sorry. I cleaned out three Dollar Stores.)
I harvested most of the pictures from Facebook. It’s pretty scary how easy it is to take pictures from people you aren’t actually friends with. Just sayin’. A little online work with the Costco photo center, and three trips later … I had all my pictures.
Lastly, I decided I would add names to each frame … not because Gage didn’t know who the people were, but so that he could begin to learn the letters of each person’s name. Once a first-grade teacher, always a first-grade teacher, you know? But when I showed a few of those name-included frames to Dave and Zac, they nixed the idea. They thought it took away from the pictures. I still think that down the road, when we start learning our letters in earnest, I’ll slip those names back in the frames.
I knew Gage would need a “holder” for all those pictures (36 in all), and I thought that if it could be something made of metal, the carrier itself would become a plaything, as the magnets would stick to the case and he could arrange them any way he liked. I was thinking of a lunchbox initially, but then I added too many pictures, and none of the lunchboxes I looked at were big enough.
Luckily, I made a trip to the Disney store to pick up Jessie and Bullseye for Gage’s birthday. Right next to that display, I found a large metal Toy Story box containing markers, stamps and stickers. I pulled those out and saved them for his Christmas stocking … and the 36 pictures fit perfectly.
These are the frames I used …
And here are pictures of some of Gage’s family …
His “uncles,” Caleb, Michael and Charlie, and friends from church, Katelynn and Carter …
And some of his very favorite friends, Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, Hunter and Larry.
This is what they look like with names. I used a Chalkboard font, which looked the closest to a school font of the ones I had to choose from. (Those names will be back … mark my words.)
This is the carrying case I found at the Disney store. I just emptied it of the markers, crayons, stamps, stickers, etc. and saved them for later.
If I arranged the pictures just so, they fit perfectly.
And here’s the birthday boy surveying his surprise. I’ve gotten pretty good at reading his mind, so let me interpret for you: Well, it’s about time they let me touch these things.