Make a rustic memory board for your graduate!

Updated in May, 2015, just for you! 🙂

It was just a week before our church’s “Senior Sunday,” and only two weeks before the graduation party that we were throwing for our Timothy, who is our senior this year in our home school.  I chose the name “Excelsior! Academy” years ago, for our home school.

Excelsior is a Latin word meaning “Ever higher” and our son Timothy has grown ever higher, in every respect–in smarts, in sweetness, in height. That doesn’t mean, however, that I’m ready for him to go.

I had my hands full of gardening chores, and to make matters even more complicated, we were planning a birthday camping trip with our little Mack, who was turning 7 in the middle of the month.  I had no ideas whatsoever for what to do for Timothy’s graduation table display. He had had some nice senior pictures taken (he’s handsome material to photograph) but that was as far as I had gotten. Oh. And Timothy was leaving for nearly a week on his senior trip–a tent-camping adventure with two best buddies.

No ideas. No time. No Timothy. I was at the graduation party of the son of a friend of mine, and I looked at her lovely buffet, her display of photos and mementoes, her beautifully clean house, with envy.  She had pulled together an awesome party to honor her son’s accomplishments. She stood in front of me, beaming happily.

She can afford to beam, I thought darkly. The hard part is behind her now.

Why was I dragging my feet on this, I wondered, as I looked at the display of photos, spread out under glass. There were photos of my friend’s son in diapers. Holding a tiny fishing pole, as a little boy. Wrestling with his little brother. He had been an adorable little child, and now was a handsome young man. It all had happened so fast.

Ouch. My heart was hurting. 🙁

I had a friend once, a sweet older man, who would admire my children whenever we met, and would comment on how fast they were growing.  “Better put a brick on their heads,” he’d say, every time.  “Keep them from growing so fast!” Then he’d snap his fingers. “They’ll be gone–just like that!”

I had forgotten to put that brick on Timothy’s head.  Now he was grown up, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.

That was it, I realized, in a sudden flash of insight. I didn’t want to lose him. I didn’t want to watch him drive down the driveway, with his face turned toward the rest of his life, and away–I had to be honest–away from me.  And I didn’t want to face those photos. There were bins and boxes of pictures from years and years past, up in the attic. They were waiting for the “someday” when I’d have time to put them into albums. Every time one of my kids reached their graduation, I’d haul out those photos and pore through every one, reliving the years, feeling that ache in my chest, usually ending up in a puddle of tears. It was so painful.

How did the years fly by so quickly? Had I made the most of every moment? Had his dad and I, bumbling fools that we can be, taught this sweet young man well enough for him to thrive out in a mean and tough and challenging world? How would I ever function without him here?  Ouch. I really, really didn’t want to think about this now.

Here's Timothy playing his guitar at Farmer's Market.

Here’s Timothy playing his guitar at Farmer’s Market.

“So what are you going to do for Timothy’s party?” my friend asked, pulling me out of my melancholy reverie.

My shoulders sagged.  “I’ve been so busy, I honestly don’t know,” I mumbled.  “I don’t have any ideas at all!” And you don’t want to pull out all those photos, my heart accused.  My heart was right.

My friend laughed.  “Oh, don’t give me that,” she said. “You’re creative and you always come up with something wonderful.”

“I don’t know about this year,” I said, dejectedly. “I’m just been so busy . . .” I had already thrown successful graduation parties for Matthew, Andrew, and Bethany, in their turns, making nice displays of fun memorabilia for each, but maybe my graduation party well was dry?  I had nothing. I didn’t want to do exactly the same thing as I’d done for them, either.  That would be boring.

This big boy was gonna be missed by this little boy. :(

This big boy was gonna be missed by this little boy. 🙁

She laughed again.  “You’ll figure something out,” she said, with a reassuring arm squeeze, and then she excused herself to go cut some picture-perfect sheet cakes.

I felt a just the hint of renewal of my spirits at that. The gauntlet was cast. If my friend thought I could do it, well, surely, surely I could. In any case, dragging my feet on organizing this graduation party wasn’t going to stop time.

It was raining the next morning, and Amalia (thankfully not emotional at all about the photos) was happy to haul the boxes of photos down and pore through them with me. She kept my spirits up, laughing and enjoying the morning with me, choosing a few piles of the best photos of Timothy: my boy in his diaper, toddling around the open dishwasher. Timothy in a clown costume, being hugged by his sister in her princess costume. Timothy participating in an archery contest. Timothy on the top of a pole.  Timothy in the top of a tree. Timothy at the top of a very high fence. Geez, what was it about climbing that captivated this boy?

I went online and found a few ideas for memory boards (on Pinterest, where else?) and then I went out into our shed (full of mostly junk, but great raw materials for projects) and searched.  I found exactly what I was looking for: an old weathered board, just the right size and shape.

And I did it. I faced the memories, and I made this board for my graduate son. Sometimes, after all, you just have to get it done.

So here’s how I did it:

Here Amalia sweeps away the dust and dirt.

The board was a mess of cobwebs and dust, so here Amalia sweeps them away.

Bryan built a handy hinged stand in the back, which (unfortunately) I forgot to take a photo of.  But it holds the board up nicely.

Here is my giggling daught.

Here is my giggling daught, keeping me from becoming too nostalgically weepy.

Amalia helped me remove some superfluous nails and other rubbish from the board.  Mostly, she giggled. And that was nice, too.

This is one of my favorite Psalms.

This is one of our favorite Psalms.

I chose a favorite verse–Psalms 115:1. “Not to us, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Then I drew it on the top of the board in pencil, and burned it in with my awesome wood-burner.  It didn’t take very long–an hour or two, honestly. If you don’t have a wood burner handy, you could paint your verse, or saying, or whatnot, on the board, or even use a good Sharpie.

Choosing and hanging pictures is the fun part!

Choosing and hanging pictures is the fun part!

Just in case you’re wondering: I use a wood-burner similar to this one: It’s so much better than the little cheap-o ones that come with a kit, and I love mine like a brother.

Click on this (affiliate link) to get your own! Trust me, it’s a lot of fun to use!

Then I took some twine and strung it across the board, just below my lettering. I started pinning our favorite pictures onto the twine, with cute little dinky clothespins (I bought them at Hobby Lobby).  I was making progress–the photos were no longer making me cry–and I was really enjoying myself now. What an adorable boy Timothy was.  I know he’s going to be successful in whatever he does.  And he is so cute, to boot. We are blessed.

This is a photo of a photo, so excuse the quality--but isn't this the cutest little boy o'mine?

This is a photo of a photo, so excuse the quality–but isn’t this the cutest little boy o’mine?

I added two more rows of photos, tweaked the tightness of the twine, adjusted the angle of some of the photos, and I was done.

Done. Ta-daa!

Done. Ta-daa!

Total time to make the board:  approximately 2 1/2 hours

Total cost: $6.00 (for the tiny clothespins) since we already had the twine and the board on hand.

Oh wait–adding this singing bird, I think, was the final touch.  Personally, I think adding a cheerful bird on any piece of art or craft is a good addition, don’t you?

This singing bird cheers me.

This singing bird cheers me.

Now if you have a graduate to honor this year, and you’ve not made a plan yet, you might want to make a memory board like this, too–the only hard part about it is facing those baby pictures . . .

Now I just have to get the party thrown together–which, by the way, is today!

Yikes! I’d better get busy . . .

A few details for you if you are, like me, totally desperate for them: we’re decorating with quart jars filled with flowers and tied with burlap–Amalia is making a burlap banner–and we’re serving barbecued chicken sliders, salads, homemade pickles and okra, and lots of yummy desserts.  My sisters are pitching in and making a lot of this food. They know how overwhelmed I am, just getting my house presentable! 🙁 I’ll post about the party some time next week.

Now I really had better get busy!



Here are some more posts that you might find helpful:

* We made these amazing cookies for Timothy’s party, and served them in large clear glass jars.

*Here’s the link to the gorgeous buns that I made for the party, as well as a few more photos.

Hey, if you found this helpful, please share it with your friends with the buttons below, and thank you! 🙂

30 thoughts on “Make a rustic memory board for your graduate!

  1. skybluepinkish

    Please stop or I will cry. My eldest is 18 this year. She goes to university next year and I still can’t really take it on board. I had that Abba song Slipping through my fingers stuck in my brain last week. That line about all the things we meant to do but never got around to ….. agh!

    Your board is fantastic, your son more so and you even more so. Great mothers bring up great sons. Be proud x

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, Gillian, please stop–that song just makes me bawl every time I hear it–It’s very hard to send off that first one. Your family will never be the same again. But then–one day–he/she brings home your first grandson and all is forgiven! 😉

  2. Francene Stanley

    How lovely to share in your memories. My eyes welled up too. It must be wonderful to know you’ve helped a tiny, gorgeous toddler to become a man. I know what it’s like to face a future without your child. Raise your head high and release him to the world. I like your momory board too. Well Done.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you, Francene, I figured I’d be touching other mamas’ hearts with this post! Universal motherhood!

  3. Cindy

    Love your thoughts and your honest, raw emotion upon approaching these days. I shed some tears as I read this knowing that I too will have those same pangs on my heart in letting go of the precious people in my home/heart. Thanks for being a mama willing to share.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Cindy, it is achingly difficult to watch those baby birds grow their flight feathers and eventually take off out of the nest, but it is also such a blessed event! God bless you as you raise your own brood (I’m sorry, I just keep coming up with bird analogies here) and know that there are rewards to sending them off!

  4. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    We made memory boards for our kids leaving kindergarten, grade school, and bar/bat mitzvot. But the time high school rolled around (let alone college), that was not among their interests.
    I can tell you my son, who just graduated college, plans to take his photo and music memory boards with him to his new abode in the Big Apple.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I had several people ask me if Mom gets to keep the memory board, or if it goes to Timothy–!!

  5. Dayna Camp

    Ann, I love the way you were so creative with Timothy’s memory board! And how you glorified the Lord in it.

    I’ve had 5 graduates now and I agree that it really doesn’t get any easier, emotionally of creatively.

    May the Lord bless and strengthen Timothy and his mom as he continues on his journey in life!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Does that mean that you have an empty nest, or do you still have more kiddos at home? We’ve had four graduates now so far, and have only two to go! Thanks for your blessing. I do appreciate it.

      1. Dayna Camp

        Three are totally out of the nest and soon to be out of state. (so sad for mom!)

        Our 23 year old has sp. needs and will be with us maybe for the rest of our lives. Our 21 year old still lives with us because he hasn’t found his wings yet and doesn’t know what his next step is.

  6. Toni Nelson

    I love what you did with the memory board. It’s so personal and special. Having those photos to go back and relive those moments of your family are so precious. Looking at those photos is like traveling in a time machine. You can remember what was going on as the photo was taken and your are transported back in time. One minute we’re holding our babies and the next thing you know they are holding their own! Time does fly!

  7. Liz Who Motivates

    What a great way for all to celebrate! I am getting all choked up myself, cute sharing, and I don’t have kids (not yet, only nieces).

    Seriously, it is a very creative, original and cost effective gift, regardless of who’s the end recipient. The best gifts are the one’s that come from the <3 and are home-made.

  8. Nicola

    Love this! Made me sniffle up too, mine have also grown up way to quickly and I’m acutely aware of their impending departures…thanks for the idea, it’s wonderful 🙂

  9. Anita@ Losing Austin

    Congratulations! We went to a graduation last night, my best friends son, and a kid that we adore. I teared up and am fast forwarding to 8 years from now when we will have our first grad. 8 years seems so long, but when I think of how the last 10 have flown, i know it’s a blink of an eye.

    Love your board.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh, gosh, I didn’t mean to make you cry! But there is something so weepy about watching beautiful children grow up, isn’t there, Anita-Clare? I’ll send your blessing Timothy’s way. Thank you.

  10. AMummysLife

    We don’t have graduation parties in NZ. Or at least not ones organised by our parents lol. I can hardly imagine what it will feel like when Monkey finishes school. It seems so far in the distance for me.

  11. Suerae Stein

    Oh! I feel your emotions! My son is graduating this year and I have been procrastinating SO BADLY on his graduation gift. Not a memory board, although I think that is stunning and so very thoughtful. I am not so great with crafts/building things/handwriting/keeping photos organized. BUT I am good with a computer and all our photos have been scanned, so I am putting together a photo book online. But, same as you, I am dragging my feet. I know I have limited time, and the photos are all there, I just have to go through them. But I seem to find other (less important) things to do! I know it’s for the same reason. It makes it seem so final. It’s daunting. I will try to follow your lead. I hope once I get started that I start to enjoy it. I can’t wait to see your photos of the party!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Suerae, I’m so glad I’m not the only mom who feels this way. Your photo book sounds wonderful. And you know, it’s not “final.” That’s one thing I’ve learned from my older kiddos–it’s a joy and a blessing when they bring their spouses, and then their children, home, which–of course–wouldn’t happen if they never left home!

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