As the firstborn of the firstborn of the firstborn, by tradition and duty, I am the keeper of the books. Genealogy books, records of births and deaths, mementos that had meaning to people generations ago, coin collections, Bibles the size of watermelon, and photos, photos, photos, photos. Why couldn’t my predecessors collect gold bars or something of value, rather than plastic cocktail skewers?
Every shoebox stashed in closets from decade to decade eventually lands with me. I have tried to live up to my store and stash responsibility, carefully identifying those I can in photos that go back centuries, and compartmentalizing everything in solid, element-proof plastic containers, labeled and ready for - what?
My children have never expressed even a slight interest in reading the 18-page letter from a direct ascendant in the trenches of the Civil War to his mother. My siblings likely laugh in their sleeve that they aren’t burdened with the shelves and shelves of dust-keepers. When visiting for my daughter’s wedding, I couldn’t even convince my father to take back his own photos and those of his father and family.
By the sheer act of caring for the forgotten and lost, I have also become connected, to their faces, their stories, their lives, their keepsakes, touchstones, and history.
Recently, I took a step back through time. Found a couple pictures of my mother as a baby with a vintage (now) dark wicker stroller in the background. There’s an 8 x 10 of my (then) young grandfather feeding a card into a machine the size of a room with several men monitoring it, a sign overhead declaring the number of computations this new invention, a calculator, would be able to do. I found a saved newspaper article, tucked into a forgotten copy of Freckles, profiling the new work of another ascendant, Gene Stratton Porter.
I pulled together a few favorite black and whites of others – the hair and clothing styles alone make the pics interesting, and traded them out in frames for the contemporary color pics. As I gathered a collection here for the dining room, and there for the table behind the couch, I could actually feel their huge sigh of relief. Not forgotten.
As if the good wishes of generations have filled the rooms, the house seems fuller today, and I feel more complete. Who wants their life cataloged and stored away, forgotten by the very ones you cared for, sacrificed for, provided for? I’d rather risk the light damage and have the reminders of those who walked before me add dimension to my life instead.
I especially love that adorable pic of my grandmother holding my mom as an infant, giving me a new memory of a woman whose death left a huge hole in my life.
QUESTION: What do you have tucked away in a shoebox, or forgotten on a shelf? Give those memories a new life and find a place to honor them. You’ll find these touchstones will enrich your life by connecting your todays, yesterdays, and tomorrows.
* tweaked and reposted from a previous blog