Rona Burt is giving her grandchildren a gift of a lifetime.
This avid Kensington collector has been divvying her pool of personal and family memorabilia into special heritage kits that she plans to give to each of her 14 grandchildren, who range in age from 10 to 30-something.
“I don’t like throwing things out. I like to put them where someone would value them, rather than the garbage can,” says Burt, whose latest enterprise stems from her longstanding love of collecting things.
“I always saved things — if there was anything in the newspaper or the kids’ schoolwork or something. And it started to build up,” she says.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got to find a home for some of this,’ so it took all last winter to divide it into the kits.”
One kit will eventually go to her 14-year-old granddaughter, Shelby Sudsbury.
“She was named after my mother’s aunt Louise. My mother was Ruth Louise. I’m Rona Louise. My daughter is Debby Louise. And now we have Shelby Louise,” says Burt, who included in the kit an antique Easter ornament tree that used to belong to the late Aunt Louise.
Burt also distributed photos taken over the years that pertain specifically to each grandchild, such as images of their parents when they were children, wedding photos and more.
“For the pictures, I’m putting dates and stories on them and the whole bit, so they’re going to have the full history,” she adds.
And then there are precious keepsakes that often make an appearance on the family refrigerator for a while but typically disappear over time.
Not in Burt’s house.
For example, Shelby’s kit contains a note she typed when she was learning to write:
“I like My Ganmather’s Toost with Peenit Bater. To Darink i like Millk. by: Shelby.”
“Her mother brought this up to show me and make me laugh,” Burt says.
And then there are things like crafts, Christmas lists and cute little child drawings.
“Once their parents knew I was doing this, they kept giving me things,” Burt says.
“Another thing I did was when the kids were here visiting and they said something (amusing) but was serious to them, I wrote it down. I am so glad I did. (When Shelby was three-and-a-half) she gave her grocery list to the clerk and he told her that he couldn’t read it. She said, ‘I think you’re holding it upside down.’”
Some kits have old telephone books and they all have a scrapbook made by their grandmother.
Other mementoes include a copy of Reader’s Digest for the month and the year they were born, a funeral service memorial for their great-grandmother who passed away in 2009 and used theatre tickets to Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.
“My mother took a bunch of us (years ago) and I’ve been taking my grandchildren every so often,” Burt says.
Her 32-year-old grandson Myron Burt’s heritage kit contains a pumpkin seed craft that his father made for his grandmother as a child, sport trophies and a plethora of trophies, photos and memorabilia from his nine years in the navy and more.
“There is something for everybody,” Burt says of her ongoing heritage kit project, “and they’re all individual.”