Last weekend I flew in to visit my sisters, I have three. We hadn’t been together since my mom died, three years ago. At that time, looking for comfort and connection, we had sorted through piles of old photographs. Some pictures were of us as children, others of my mother when she was a young woman and still others known only by the fading names scribbled on the back.
We spent time telling stories and laughing at the memories. I was given the assignment, or maybe I volunteered, of taking some of these ancient photos and scanning them so the images could be preserved for future generations. Oddly, all of us seemed to have a few old and special photos in our personal collections. I am not sure how that happened, but that probably was my mom’s doing. I imagined she divvied them up, little by little. When we reunited last week, I handed them the finished disk and the envelope of photographs I had borrowed. Yes, it did take me three years to complete the project…sigh.
I never was especially interested in tracing family history or genealogy. But, as I have grown older and special people have passed away in my life, I feel a desire to preserve, for my grandchildren, the knowledge and memories I do have. Who were some of these people in my fading black and white photos? I strain to remember what my grandmother told me about Pa Pa (her father) and Ma Ma (her stepmother). They lived on a farm in Missouri. What was it like growing up on a farm in the early 1900’s? How did she meet my grandfather, who was a city boy? These are questions I never thought to ask her. She may have told me some of it, but I wasn’t paying close enough attention to remember. Much of that rich and precious information is lost forever.
Now what? I decided to start journaling the stories I do remember. Then I can pair the written memories with some of the old photographs I have, preserving some of the family history to pass on. I can still recall personal interactions with my Aunt Opal (my grandmothers’, mothers’ sister), who must have been almost 90 years old when I was a teenager and the special love of my Aunt Blanch (my grandfathers’ sister) who always, throughout my childhood and until I was married, sent me a birthday card with a dollar in it.
My grandmother was a wife and mother during the Great Depression. She told me that the potato peeler was invented during this time (maybe, maybe not… but I like the story anyway). She said the peeler helped people to remove as little of the potato as possible, while removing the skin. Food was in short supply and everyone had to make the most of what they had. Hmmm… This is an interesting bit of history that I can pass along to my granddaughters once we start cooking together. I look forward to it.
How do you plan to preserve your family history?