None of us in our generation will ever forget what happened and what we were doing on 9/11, but as we watched the 10th anniversary coverage over the weekend, we realized that for our children it will be just another past event that they’ll study in their history books. It got us to thinking about our own family memories, their importance to us and how we’d like them to be “real” for our children. Just wondering how we can ensure that our family history is maintained as a viable and meaningful part of our children’s lives. Have any ideas that we can try? - Sara and Nate B.
Our national, collective memory is well-documented and preserved through the media, but often we find ourselves too busy with the present to document the past and create memories for the future. So how can we slow the pace and take the time to remember?
As an intrepid scrapbooker, tireless genealogist and curious documenter of family stories, your question is particularly interesting to me. It’s wonderful when a family wants to create and maintain its memories.
My father was a painting contractor and worked at various new construction sites throughout the Eastern suburbs. As children we never really saw our father at work on an actual job. Sure, he did lots of handyman work at our own home, but we only saw him leaving for and returning from his real job.
One day Dad brought home a photograph. Seems that one of the new homeowners took a picture of him clad in his white painted splatter overalls and cap standing on a ladder finishing an entry door. That photo is prized by our family because it captured a moment in time of our Dad doing what he did for more than 40 years. To this day—20 years after Dad’s death—that photo brings back memories and, in a sense, makes Dad alive again at least in our mind’s eye. Someone wisely said, “As long as you have my photograph, then, I am still safe in your heart.”
Sure, it’s important to make memories together as a family; experiences shared far outweigh purchases made. But it’s equally important for families to preserve them in some way. Sometimes the most common, ordinary activities of daily life, documented with a photo are the best memories.
So, let’s consider some ways you can maintain your family history and make it a meaningful part of your children’s lives.
1. Set aside a little, or maybe a lot, of time to gather all the old family photos that you have stored in envelopes, bags and shoe boxes. Take a few at a time and write names, dates and events on the back of each and sort them by year. Involve the family as you do this. It’s tedious work that can be made much more fun if you look at them together, reminisce about the person or event and tag the photo. The family that sorts together stays together!
2. Make a mid-year resolution to label every new photo you take before you store it or put it in an album. Keeping this resolution will help you keep pace with your photos in an organized way. Label first, then store.
3. Another fun way to connect the generations in your family is to encourage your children to “interview” their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Help them write a list of several interview questions to initiate the conversation. Interviews can be conducted in person, on the telephone, via email or maybe even Skype. After the interview, your youngster might write a summary of the interview and even include a photo of the person interviewed. A little notebook of these interviews can forge an interpersonal connection that increases respect for others’ lives and work and helps children to understand that they are a part of their own human network.
4. If the children are old enough to do so, encourage them to start their own photo albums. As photos are taken and labeled, youngsters can put them in an album or scrapbook and write a sentence or two about the picture along with the names of those pictured, the date, place or event. Avoid saving every single photo. Select only one or two of the best photos that really captures the spirit of an event. Photos are stilled moments of time that will be forever cherished.
5. If your family’s into technology, start storing and organizing your electronic photos online. Photos can easily be sorted into albums, tagged with names and dates and stored on the web so that they can be viewed by the whole family anywhere that they are. This is a great way to host a virtual family reunion and keep all the cousins in touch across the country or the world. Use a site such as Picasa, Flickr or WinkFlash for online photo storage and sharing. You can even create virtual albums and have them printed online. Take a look at Snapfish, Shutterfly, Photobucket or Smugmug.
Photos are memories made visible. The photos you take tell others something about yourself. Those photos were taken or gathered because they mattered. Photography is a language unto itself. It communicates with the subconscious when words alone are not enough.
Photos connect the past and present with the future. Use them to tell your family’s story. Use them as conversation starters with your children. Photos help your youngsters know where they came from and help them forge their paths ahead.
“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.” ~ Eudora Welty
Compare and contrast the various photo storage and sharing sites at http://photo-sharing-services-review.toptenreviews.com/
Visit this website to learn how to create your own family memories: http://www.familymemories.com/
Here’s a website that will stimulate interest in family genealogy: http://genealogy.about.com/od/journaling/tp/legacy_journals.htm
To learn more about maintaining family traditions and preserving memories, visit: http://susan-whelan.suite101.com/preserving-family-memories-a48005