Toronto Zoo

Keeping Keepsakes

By Kinjal Dagli Shah

Our most exciting summer adventure has been a robin’s nest on our porch. It started with a flurry of activity by two robin mates to claim their territory and put together a nest atop a lantern on our front porch. Every day my five-year-old daughter would go out and watch this amazing creation of home and life. Often, we would hear one-sided conversation, and when we asked, she told us she was talking to Zarmay Falls and Victor Shah – her names for the soon-to-be mommy and daddy bird.

Soon, Zarmay Falls and Victor Shah welcomed three babies in their nest and we watched the hatchlings grow, fed on worms and berries their parents dutifully provided. In a couple weeks, the tiny birds were nearly full-grown and ready to fly the nest any day. I felt a tug in my heart at the thought of them flying the nest, and took some photos and videos to remember them by. 

Everything has happened so quickly – their arrival, nesting, hatching and thriving – that I can’t help but relate it to how quickly my own children are growing. I’m not sure about the robins’ urge to hang onto the memories of their babies but humans most definitely like to. Natalie Fritz Alt, a cake decorator and stay-at-home mom from Bolton, has a time capsule for each of her three children. “Each includes the outfit they wore when they came home from the hospital, cards I received after their birth, a favourite bib and a letter I wrote to each of them on their first birthday. It also includes a special piece of jewellery my husband bought for them. I also asked guests invited to their first birthdays to bring something to include in the capsule – like a photo or a note,” said Fritz Alt, adding that she has managed to hide the secret from her 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old boys. “None of the kids know about the capsules because I plan to give it to them on their 18th birthday.”

Fleeting times revisited

Keepsakes are a way of revisiting a time that probably fleeted by too quickly; a tangible proof of the most precious belongings we can lay claim on – our children. And a testament to the journey of a tiny human that began with a beating heart. Perhaps why Laura Veneziano Augustin converted a recording of her baby’s heartbeat into art. 

She had heard of a company called Making Waves, (www.makingwavescanada.com) run by a Hamilton mom, who makes custom waveforms of different sounds, including heartbeats, giggles and even first words. Laura decided that her baby’s heartbeat would be the most precious keepsake. 

“I immediately knew I wanted to do it and so I gifted it to myself for Mother’s Day. I just sent them an audio file and they converted it into a piece of waveform artwork. My baby is now six-months old and I am so glad to have the sound of her heart as an artwork,” said Veneziano Augustin. 

From time capsules and heartbeats to memory bears and quilts, parents are getting creative with the ways in which they keep a piece of their offspring close to their hearts. Laura Ferreira attended a sewing class and began the “great adventure” of making a memory quilt with her two-year-old daughter’s newborn clothes that she had held on to. 

“I got everything together – her pyjamas, onesies, hats, socks, bibs and bathing suits. I worked on the quilt for about 10 months, shed a lot of tears, and welcomed the help from my best friend, who acted as the seam ripper. Finally, it was made and I sent it out to be long-arm quilted, to give it that extra touch. I’m extremely proud of how it turned out,” said Ferreira, who lives in Mississauga.

Baby clothes reborn

Ferreira knows that her daughter Amber will cherish it when she grows up. “The quilt reminds me of when my daughter was a newborn baby. I remember the cooing, smiles and laughter. But I don’t give it to her every day because I know she will not appreciate it at this age. I will wait until she’s a little older so I can explain its meaning and show pictures of her in the clothing I used. I’m glad her baby clothes will always be with her and not collecting dust in a storage box,” said Ferreira. 

Just like quilts, memory bears made from children’s clothing are becoming popular because the kids can play with the stuffed toys or keep them as decoration in their rooms. Annette Choy, a professional seamstress in Stouffville, recently made a keepsake bear and pillow for a mother who gave it to her daughter as a graduation gift. 

“This mother had saved her daughter’s baby clothes, her baptism outfit, girl guide clothes and badges and school uniforms. I used the items to make a bear and a pillow and she surprised her with the gifts at her high school graduation,” explained Choy. 

Memories are a special thing, and keepsakes give them expression. As for the baby robins on our porch, I have some of my own memories because they were such a wonderful source of learning and engagement for my own little ones. Now to find a keepsake to hold on to.

Kinjal Dagli-Shah is a journalist and mother to a girl and a boy. She lives with her husband and children in Stouffville.