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GAIL WHITE Essay contest will inspire links and legacies

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

I remember spending a week every summer at my grandparents' house when I was a child.
My sister and I would spend our days riding bikes around the U-shaped driveway, exploring in the woods and snatching apples from the apple trees.
Throughout the week, Grandma would keep us busy with little "projects."
We would fill up the kitchen sink and wash all the knickknacks on her shelves. We would call to Grandma repeatedly to come and look at how sparkly we had gotten the little figurines. We loved to wash Grandma's knickknacks, and we took great care in handling them.
On a hot, sunny day during our visit, Grandma would get the hose and some buckets and we got to wash the big back porch, where everyone in the family congregated all summer.
Oh, the fun we had splashing and mopping, getting every nook and cranny clean.
Finally, a realization: It wasn't until years later, after Grandma had died, that my sister and I realized that our fun was really Grandma's spring cleaning.
"How did she do that?" we asked ourselves.
Such "projects" at home were called chores. Grumbling and complaining always accompanied the task -- not laughter and gleeful exuberance.
Perhaps it was Grandma's homemade bread or the trips to the ice cream shop that motivated my sister and me.
Maybe it was the pizza for breakfast that got our bodies charged for chores.
But I don't remember thinking about a reward as I polished little ceramic animals or scrubbed the wooden porch floor.
I think we were so happy to do Grandma's fun projects because we loved the woman so very much.
She was firm, yet fun; gentle but resolute.
She was supremely proud of our every accomplishment and never afraid to sensitively voice disapproval when our actions were less than acceptable.
I can still hear her laughter today.
Legacy lives: Although Grandma is gone, her legacy of loving kindness coupled with firm expectation lives on.
She helped shape the person I became. In turn, her legacy will live on as I shape the lives of my children.
An organization called Something To Remember Me By has been established to promote, encourage and inspire people to create legacies across generations.
"It's more important than ever to talk with children and give them a sense of family connectedness and security" says Susan Bosak, author and national chairwoman of Something To Remember Me By Legacy Project.
"People have a real need to leave a legacy," Bosak explains. "Kids need a sense of where they come from."
Inspiration: Bosak's book, "Something To Remember Me By," was inspired by her grandmother. "I have so many wonderful memories," she writes. "I was very close to her from the time I was a little girl."
Although her grandmother inspired the book, the book inspired a flurry of hundreds of letters, faxes and e-mails. This response inspired the Something To Remember Me By Legacy Project.
The project is an intergenerational essay contest. Children 10 to 18 must work together with a grandparent or "grandfriend" to write a 300-word essay on the theme "Linking Past and Future."
The essay may be about a special tradition, a touching story or a life lesson that has been passed down from old to young and the importance it has had on each generation.
"The contest gives grandparents and their grandchildren an opportunity to talk about topics they might not usually talk about and a chance to get closer," says Bosak.
Perhaps one of the essays will divulge the secret to Grandma's legacy of making work so much fun!
XFor more information about the Legacy Project, go to Essay deadline is Oct. 26.