When I was a little girl, my grandmother kept a big box of pictures in her sewing room. Being the curious child that I was, I loved looking through it and seeing family and friends and how they had changed over the years. However, it was the people I didn’t know and had never met who intrigued me the most.
Fortunately for me, Grandma Helen never minded when I interrupted her sewing (or crocheting, knitting, baking, or cooking – yup, she could do it all) to ask her who those people were. Some of the pictures were really old, and although the details weren’t very clear, I remember loving them the most. I especially liked the ones with the fancy scalloped borders around them. Why did they ever stop doing that? Anyway, my grandmother would sit down with me and patiently explain who everyone was and where and what they were doing. I got to know relatives whom I had never met, like my great grandmother who died when my grandma was only thirteen, along with others I had only heard about. These times we spent together were not only special for me, but I believe for Grandma Helen as well. She got to relive her special memories as she was passing them on to me and my siblings. These photos were a gateway into the past, and reminded us how everyday events such as birthdays, weddings and baptisms helped form our family’s history. I also loved that these pictures were all jumbled together in a big box, rather than arranged neatly and orderly in photo albums. That’s nice too, of course, but for a kid who liked to explore, being able to dig down into the very bottom to find one that I hadn’t seen before made it much more fun.
Today, due to the proliferation of online photo albums, there seem to be fewer and fewer printed pictures to keep in a box or put into an album. Sure, online digital pictures are great. The clarity cannot be beat, plus you can pick and choose which ones to keep. Still, there’s something about those old black and white pictures in your hand that make you feel as if you’re holding pieces of the past.
My mother and uncle now have these pictures, and just recently my mom and I sat in her bedroom going through them. This time my mother got to relive her own special memories with me. Although, when some of them were taken, my mother was not even born yet. But I could see when she looked at her ancestors how special they were to her, even though she never got to meet them all. This, in turn, made them special to me.
Why not make your kids or grandchildren a picture box so they too can hold a tangible part of your family’s history? Be sure to pass on stories about the people and places to make them come alive in their hearts and minds. You could even write a little story on the back of each one. I know I will never forget the times spent looking through that old box of memories.
Published in The Country Register across the United States and Canada