My paternal family in 1939 (my father is the little boy on the front!)
This Is My Story
It has taken me about ten years, but I just finished scanning family photos dating back to 1919! Pictures are my thing. After my parents’ death, I called everyone I knew and held an open house where everyone was free to get whatever they pleased from home.
My parents were well-known, much-loved, and deeply respected people. There was never a doubt in my mind that their possessions, too, were to be deeply cherished.
There was only one exception to this free-for-all opportunity: nobody could touch a single picture. Those were the only things I valued, wanted, and needed. Photographs were utterly off-limits.
My father loved documenting everything and everyone in our lives. As a result, there was a room full of photo albums in my parents’ home. Dad always ordered duplicate photos to gift to everyone with the good fortune of appearing in any of his pictures (as in everyone we knew!).
When the time came to move the photo albums, the cost of this adventure was over $2,000. But selecting the pictures to represent our life history best together was impossible to rush. I knew this, and I paid that money with joy.
A Longer Process Than Anticipated
Those photo albums were all over our formal living room for many months, which had remained unfurnished since we moved in. There were over 400 photo albums!
As time passed, I selected the photos that meant the most to me and created brand-new albums. Then, some months later, we built our new media room and made specific cabinets just for these photo albums.
I started scanning all those pictures at a rate of about one album a month. Then, I classified albums by year, which helped me create digital folders. Finally, I organized all my scanned photos that way in electronic format.
And yes, I discarded all those albums and all those prints once these were scanned and safely backed up.
Tears, Joy, Laughter, Memories
The process was deeply emotional, intense, and satisfying. I saw things I’d never seen before. For example, I saw my twin sisters, who died shortly after birth for the first time. I had no idea there was a single picture of them!
Like that, I went through every facet of the emotional spectrum with pictures of relatives and friends, young and old, dead and alive, reviving the many adventures we had as a tribe. And so many stories came back to me while others came alive for the first time. People, parties, music, dance, meetings, joy, food, drinks, and laughter continuously filled my parents’ home.
Oh, Wait, There’s More!
As soon as the prints were all scanned, I remembered my neglected box of slides and movies. The slides numbered over 3,000. I knew of specific, cherished moments of my life in those slides.
The scanning process was labor-intensive but easy. However, the emotional voyage was something else.
So, after about ten years (I can’t believe this took me so long!), I finally finished scanning and organizing all those pictures and slides electronically by year.
I enjoyed sharing some of these pictures with extraordinary people from our past along this journey. I have discovered that images grab people’s hearts and make unforgettable and deeply appreciated gifts. So many relationships from the past resurfaced! This process touched many hearts.
These days, pictures live inside our phones or in less than carefully maintained photo albums. But unfortunately, they do not tell a story that way. Our kids don’t know about our childhood and youthful adventures. It is hard for them to grasp that we were once their age, with insecurities, excitement, drama, romance, and stupidity, just like them!
However, reconnecting with our past brings all that emotion, color, adventure, and joy to our present. And guess what? Our children are the most excited, cheerful consumers of these stories.
Knowing our family history makes us more resilient as human beings. Pictures are invaluable to the process of recounting our stories. We need only to listen with the heart for a moment.
So that is my story. What’s yours?