Sunday, July 12, 2009

Family History--Preserving your legacy

I really love stickers. I adore stamps. I am crazy for patterned paper. All of the fun craftiness is really important to me.
Having said that....sometimes I wonder if I am preserving my life and my memories appropriately whenever I use rub-ons, chipboard, felt, foam etc. Seriously, in 20 years will those stickers still be sticky? Will my cropped photo hold the same value if I cut out my 2006 Toyota Matrix from the background?

I ask these questions because yesterday I had the pleasure of assisting my aunts and cousins in cleaning out Grandma Pat's house. This task is a bit overwhelming and daunting because of the large accumulation of junk one accrues over the years. Filled to the brim with books, vases, clothes, artwork, an extensive elephant figurine collection, VHS tapes, and other 'junk' my family has been working to sort out all the stuff from my grandma's life. My dad called me and said that I should probably go over there and see if there is anything that I want.

I wasn't feeling super sentimental about all that stuff until I walked in and realized that they were going through all the old letters, cards and pictures!!! Awesome, perfect, that is all I care about! I spent the afternoon sorting through every card, photo, and note anyone in her family has ever given her.

Boxes were created for each of her 6 children, her husband and her mother's family. Photos and notes from each grandchild were matched up with the box belonging to his or her parent. My dad's box already contained several of my letters and photos when I got there and it was so precious to recognize my handwriting and signature on cards we had given to Grandma Pat 15+ years ago.

As I picked up post cards I had sent her, notes I had written her and cards from me and my family, I realized that everything containing my handwriting was part of MY HISTORY. My legacy was recorded. My photos perhaps didn't tell the same story that a scrapbook would tell, but she had every school picture of me from K-12, in order, in a frame. She had letters that my dad had written to her when he was a kid. (Reading my dad's words, when he was 12-years-old brought tears to my eyes! This was exactly the thing that I wanted to discover! This was special to me!)

My aunt Robyn had over 2 boxes full of letters. She had written to Pat hundreds of multi-page letters over the years. She had sent Pat photos, cards, postcards, etc. Her entire life was captured in her handwriting.

We flipped through photo albums that had Pat's writing on some of the photos detailing the year, place and who was in the photo. Not every photo was labeled. Not every photo contained someone that WE recognized...but Pat would've known. She would've been able to tell us the story, in her words, if she were still alive.

Seeing all the memorabilia, I wondered if my (7+) scrapbooks would be able to do MY Story justice in 20, 30, or 40 years? How much stuff will I save? Will I save the special stuff, the stuff that will mean something to my family in the future? Will I correctly preserve my legacy? Will my 'design challenge layout' mean anything to anyone someday just because 'I' created it? Will I tell the right stories?

Also, I wondered about all the emails and electronic correspondence that I get from my family members and friends. THAT part of my history will never be recorded like an ACTUAL letter or handwritten note would be. If you visit a museum or see a biography on a person's life, their handwriting and letters are always part of their personal history. With the digital age, is all of that going to be lost? Will a person's voice be locked behind a password or deleted once they are gone?

My history with my family and Grandma Pat are important to me. Things I will never forget: playing in the barn, that old slot machine in the bus, playing by the mud puddles, tire swing, playing wedding in daffodils, climbing trees, eating cereal as a late-night snack, her chicken and noodles, dancing, Hey Bobby song, flowers on Memorial day with her, fish tank, book store, elephants, cougars, light bright, water-filled basement, Wendy's frosty and fries at the book store, VHS collection...Many of these stories can't be told with photos or letters because none exist, they are stories that I can tell using pictures and memorabilia that is available.


Jamie Harder said...

wow that is so amazing that she saved so much precious stuff! and I am confident ANYTHING that you record in any way will be appreciated by your loved ones!!

Sarah said...

Your whole post had me riveted! THIS IS WHAT LIFE IS ABOUT! Love it Nellie.

Penny said...

Your post made me teary-eyed. When my grandmother died I realized that I hadn't saved a single letter she had written me, I always read, replied then threw them away. Now I wish I had them. BUt since she died my grandfather has taken over the letter writing, and his letters go from handwritten to computer printed because he can hardly hold a pen these days, but I've saved them all and I'll be glad I did when he leaves us.

Stefani said...

Glad to see that you recognize the value all of all the ephemera. Too often this ends up in an antique or junk shop, family members not recognizing or appreciating the significance of these bits of a loved life. Thanks for sharing!

Krista Ritskes said...

I've been working on an album based on my parents' wedding and photos of them growing up. I can completely understand what you're feeling. I will be using heritage photographs and I'm happy to be able to put them somewhere instead of the box they were in. You should know that I think people in the future will think you've done a fabulous job preserving your legacy.