Reaching the end of another month and preparing for the next. September brings lots of activity in my world since it is Save Your Photos Month in my professional world. Working with folks all over the world to make sense of the boxes of photos and memories they have from their lives and those of generations before them, allows clarity to wash over them and feel a sense of accomplishment and relief. Inheriting stuff from family can be hard – the stories attached to that stuff are almost never shared and so the box becomes a nuisance, a burden, and unfortunately junk to be tossed in the garbage. And then something happens that we cannot rewind and get it back. I have witnessed too many people in my circle of friends lately deal with this. And it hurts. We need to revive the art of oral history sharing. We need to cherish the family line we have come up through. It is a part of us, and if we took the time to hear it, we might start to understand why we are like we are in our actions and mannerisms.
Recently I have been thinking about all the noise that fills our world daily, much of it will become history written in a book. People will read it, remember it, reference it – but how much of it actually touched us so personally that we can say we lived it? The thing is every day we are making our history. We ARE living our lives in a manner that will mold and shape what happens to us in the days ahead, and much of that is woven in the fabric of our family lineage. Why do you trim the ham before baking it? According to the story, because that is what mom, grandma, great-grandma did. And then the stories are shared and you find out great-grandma had a little pan. So she cut off the ends to fit in the pan. Silly traditions, but if we don’t ask, we don’t learn.
Think about the last time you sat down with an elder in your family and asked them questions about their childhood. Did they have similar experiences to what you have? Obviously there was not the technology and gadgets there are today, but what was new and innovative in their day? I remember getting our first microwave. It was HUGE. But it worked like the ones today. Have they improved on it, absolutely, but it is still something that was a story to talk about. Cameras is another thing that has changed and how we took photos. In the past, the camera was brought out for special occasions. Makes me wonder what was happening on those other days of the year. Were they not important enough or was it because to develop and print film cost money and that was not an expense many families were willing to dole out? I try to take photos more often so I can remember the little things. Grandkids smelling flowers for the first time, eating a lemon, or splashing in puddles. These are stories that can be shared over generations – we all have birthdays and parties for holidays which are fun to see and compare year to year, but that should not be the only time to capture images on film.
When my papa (grandpa on mom’s side) was still alive, I was just getting into saving my memories from the past. I took a tape recorder on a visit to him and basically asked him to share all the stories he could that I remembered from my childhood. (As I was growing up I remembered only bits and pieces of them). He told the stories and I listened; it brought back so many happy images of growing up and spending time with he and grandma. I am sure some of the info was embellished or maybe even complete fiction, but it didn’t matter – that was the story from my papa. I don’t know that my kids have those memories from our parents. And unfortunately, they only have one grandparent left to share that. I am trying to be better at this and share things now with my grandkids – through word and image. Passing on the wisdom from the elders of the family is so important. It shapes who we are, it is infused in our life and we may not even know why. My challenge to you during September is to revive that long lost tradition of passing on oral history. It can be accompanied by photos – haven’t we all heard “a photo is worth a thousand words”; so write those words or share them with others so that they have the information and can then pass it on. Let’s bring back the dinner table discussions – real “meat and potatoes” kind of talk about traditions, events in family history, the impact our ancestors had on our upbringing and maybe even some of that global history. Who knows, maybe you do have some famous stories in your lineage. But if you don’t ask, don’t share, and don’t document it – it will be lost.
My challenge for you as we near the “end of summer” with Labor Day weekend is to gather with family and share some stories, memories, traditions, etc. Teach the younger generation about the tenacity it requires to continue leaving a legacy for future generations. And if you need help doing something with the information once you have it, reach out to myself or a colleague who do this for a living – www.thephotomanagers.com is a great place to start. There are members globally waiting to make your life story a true legacy.
Hoosier Photo Organizer
I am a Certified Photo Organizer. I have a passion for helping people in many ways. I am a life-long learner and this new business venture is just another path I am following.