Blue Plate Special
REDLANDS – Lauren Littauer Briggs of Redlands holds up several aged objects and asks her audiences, “What is the difference between these items and similar ones you might find in an antique store?”
That vast difference is the subject of her latest book, Making the Blue Plate Special – The Joy of Family Legacies.
“We all have them,” she says. “Our items have a story that connects them to us, while those in the antique store are just pretty things. While they may have a history, it is not your history. It is not the item, but the story that makes it special.
“In order to keep your history alive, however, you need to tell the story. Otherwise your precious treasures will end up in an antique store for someone else to purchase.”
Briggs, a 30-year resident of Redlands, has joined her mother, popular motivational author/speaker Florence Littauer, and her sister Marita Littauer, president of CLASServices, Inc. (Christian Leaders, Authors & Speakers Seminars), to write this 320-page how-to book of personal stories, anecdotes, vignettes, hints and suggestions on preserving family memories and making the family special.
They discuss family gatherings, holiday traditions, food and fellowship, enhancing the home, treasured trips, providing a family legacy for an adopted child or within a childless family, and how to preserve memories.
All this concludes with challenges and suggestions for making the authors’ ideas a reality in all families.
Lauren Briggs is active in Redlands through her music. She has sung for 16 years in Jeffrey Rickard’s Community Chorus and been a Redlands Bowl Broadway musical cast member for four shows, including a Pick-a-Little Lady in “The Music Man” and Grandma Tzietl in “Fiddler on the Roof.” She is also a member of the First Congregational Church Handbell Quartet and Sanctuary Choir.
Briggs is a founding member and current Redlands chapter leader of The Compassionate Friends, the national support group for parents who have lost a child.
Her first book, The Art of Helping – What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting, published in 2003, is a guidebook helping thousands know what to say and do to comfort a hurting heart. Briggs continues as a national seminar speaker (in some 30 states over the past five years), which has involved 75 radio and nearly a dozen television interviews.
Briggs notes that her mother, her sister, and she have nearly equal input of ideas and writing in “Making the Blue Plate Special.” Matriarch Florence Littauer in her early chapter on “Keepsakes and Family Treasures,” writes about simple items which collect in the home – “Family treasures which don’t have to cost much or even be worth much monetarily.”
“What’s important,” Florence says, “is the emotional value each thing holds. What’s even more important is for you to tell the stories of the family keepsakes so future generations can treasure those objects – and the memories they hold as well.” Littauer writes of enhancing the home through displays of family photographs, and walls, shelves and ledges arranged with family collectibles.
Lauren Briggs centers her thoughts on Family traditions, including recipes, collections, and activities. “You’re the one who knows your family best, so if you’re beginning a tradition, start with something that appeals to the majority. Maybe that’s sharing cinnamon rolls together the first Saturday morning of every month. Maybe it’s attending the opening game every year of your local minor league baseball club. Maybe it’s collecting rocks from every trip you take. Whatever you choose, you’re strengthening a family bond that will only grow stronger over time.”
Lauren incorporates family ideas from her own immediate family members’ experiences, including those of husband Randy Briggs Sr., owner of Collector Galleries, specializing in coins, precious metals and stamps, at 21 E. Redlands Blvd.; Randy Briggs Jr., for nine years known as Jimmy the Robot performing with The Aquabats); and Jonathan Briggs, recent graduate of UCLA who sang the role of Rolfe in the 2002 Redlands Bowl production of “The Music Man.”
Randy Sr. discusses legacies collectors leave, sharing how his own father developed his interest in coins, such that Randy accumulated the world’s only privately held complete set of siege bank notes produced by Gen. Charles Gordon during the siege of Khartoum. He became such an expert that he was invited to speak at the International Banknote Congress in London.
Randy Sr. also writes about rewarding children in the game of spotting items on family trips; about researching ancestors on Prince Edward Island; and videotaping and narrating a visit inside his ancestral home of quarried stone, only to return the next year thankful he had captured those memories because the house had been demolished.
Randy Jr. relates how his school saxophone and band education from Armando Barton at Moore Junior High School led to traveling with The Aquabats 10 times across the U.S. to play more than 500 shows, including the House of Blues, Universal Amphitheater, and many others from Los Angeles to New York City.
Son Jonathan writes of appreciating family dinners when “the preparation was as important as the meal itself.”
“When Mom or Dad was cooking, it was an extension of the dinner. The television wasn’t on. We always assisted in the preparation. Now that I have my own apartment, I am finally the head chef, and I love it!” He tells of his marching band experiences at UCLA when Friday nights turned into “Cook Night at Jon’s” for dorm friends who enjoyed his special foods.
Among the 40 guest vignette contributors to the book is June Durr of San Bernardino, member of First Congregational Church in Redlands, and long-time marketing and public affairs director for the city of San Bernardino.
Durr writes of pixies and phantoms, of tables set with the best on Sunday when “restaurant” manners and etiquette were practiced. “The Pixie of the Week” names were drawn, and each a person kept the name they drew secret throughout the week – as they performed kind, supportive things to make that person happy. As a family they provided “phantom gifts” to those in need – leaving a gift or food on the doorstep and running away.
Lauren Briggs says, “We wanted to help families recognize and appreciate their own heritage and build a sense of security and belonging – sharing their rich heritage and a commitment to leaving a meaningful legacy for the future. For instance, my mom has written a special letter to each of her grandchildren on the day they were born, recounting her joy at the child’s entrance to the world. My sister preserves many of her family’s food and mealtime traditions, emphasizing fellowship and conversation around the table.”
The book offers readers inspiration and motivation to look at their own family and the legacy they are leaving. The appendix gives several pages of help in writing heritage and legacy letters including many questions and tips useful in family interviews.
“Are you actively considering what legacy you will leave for future generations?” Lauren Briggs asks. “Have you shared how the ‘faith of your fathers’ is living still? Do you realize that every moment you spend with your children is building your legacy and what they will remember about you?
“With families scattered all around the world these days, it is more important than ever to unite together in faith, in words, and by establishing a living legacy that will last through many future generations.”
Lauren suggests Making the Blue Plate Special is “a perfect fit for newlyweds and young families, to inspire them to leave a lasting imprint upon the future. It will also be an encouragement for the more mature family and the women who enjoy record keeping, scrapbooking and genealogy. I also suggest it for Mothers Day.”
Making the Blue Plate Special, published by Cook Communications Ministries, is available through the online store, Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and other retail bookstores.