folding a memory box

design, experiences, inspiration, just a thought, paper arts

Longtime readers of Craft Nectar may remember my post last December on the unexpected death of my dear friend Tina Lillig. Tina was the National Director of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in the US. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Good Shepherd program, it’s an amazing Montessori-based Christian education program for children 3-12.

Tina was also the co-leader of the Level III class in our church and I had been her assistant last year. So when she died it seemed that the best way to honor her would be to carry on her work with her class after her death. It’s impossible to say that I replaced Tina, because no one else can do what she did, but I joined Tina’s co-leader at the time and we finished out the year, which ended this morning.

Last week we had no particular presentations on the agenda so I decided to introduce a new activity given the unexpected way the year went for all of us following Tina’s death. Our class of 9-12 year olds likes making things, which is consistent with the program. So last week I told the children that we had discussed a lot of important topics this year and of course we had lost Tina. It seemed like a good time, I told them, to think about what memories we want to take with us at the end of the year. And we would need something to put those memories in, I explained.

I pulled out two sizes of origami paper for each child, one about 1/8″ smaller than the other. I told them that we would be making something to hold our memories but that we would be doing it in silence so we could meditate on which memories we would want to keep. I set out on the table before them cards with all of the topics that we had discussed and all of the parables we had read. I also included Tina as a topic because I thought that this would give the kids a chance to write down what they wanted to remember about her. In a 3″x3″ origami box I put some small slips of vellum that the children would use to write or draw the things that they wanted to remember and would want to put in their boxes. Like the prayer books we made and their journals, these things would be private, I reminded them.

Prior to last week, I had spent a tremendous amount of time looking for lidded boxes in origami books that would be simple and fast for the children to fold without talking. After many attempts I decided to just cut down one size of origami paper so the base would be just small enough to fit inside the top if they were folded with the same method. Both the base and the top are made from two units that are combined to make a base or a lid.

At last it was time to fold. I did one fold at a time silently and then watched silently as the children repeated what I had done. When one got confused they were to hand it to me and I would silently fix the problem and hand it back to them. On the last piece of paper I folded the unit with the colored paper on the other side so the color would appear on the top of the box. The children worked in total silence for 45 minutes doing this and some stayed past the appointed time because they were enjoying this silent, contemplative project and weren’t ready to stop. We stayed with them a bit longer until they were ready to close up their boxes. It was a beautiful experience and I know that Tina would have loved to have seen it.

As it was to be a meditative process I didn’t want to photograph them working but recreated the box we made step by step for you below. Below is a tutorial of the lidded boxes we made based on a simple base that appeared in Tomoko Fuse’s book Joyful Origami Boxes.

Simple Box and Lid

4 thoughts on “folding a memory box

  1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful and caring note to all of us with this wonderful webpage to follow your instructions and this visual explanation. I know Tina is with you in your tender, loving, spirit, and in the ways you present to the children. You are truly a shepherd of these children.

    I had the pleasure of creating one of the cloth journal books with one of my children in the Atrium, and it turned out beautifully. She was so delighted to make one, and I was delighted to spend the time with her as we worked together. I thank you so much for this idea.

    It has been a gift to all of us to share this sacred and holy time with you. Joanne

  2. This is an amazing story on so many different levels!

    Not to belittle the touching jesture of the activity, but I would have bet that 9-12 years would not have been silent for 45+ minutes given that our society today is so filled with noise. It is just another lesson that we shouldn’t underestimate our children in what they comprehend (speaking as a non-parent).

    I agree with another poster that there was a sense of peace and tranquility to the story. Great post, as always.

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