The hard work was done. Or more accurately, the hard physical work was done. Mom’s house was empty except for the stack of photo albums. Compared to the rest of the contents of the house, the amount was small. But it represented a lot of mental and emotional effort. My oldest sister, Betsy, had planned a final trip back home to help me with the house, so I drafted her to tackle this mountain of memories.
We decided to start with family history. We had a wealth of old photos we wanted to preserve and share with all members of the family. To me the natural approach was to marry them to our family tree, lending context and time-frame to this collection of relatives. Here we struck gold. My father’s side of the family had been heavily researched in years past, and a cousin has worked in more recent years to update it and computerize the records. Within a short time, we had access to that family tree dating back to the 1500s on Ancestry.com. On my mother’s side, we began creating her tree from our own records. Soon we were in business with side-by-side laptops, churning away at scanning, documenting and saving photos then creating tree limbs and connecting people to photos. How rewarding it was to see gaps filled, put names to faces and see our past come to life. There was a sense of satisfaction in handling the old photos and know they were being preserved. And we found some amazing old images.
We also found a few gems. Mom’s college scrapbook mainly held mementos of the events in her collegiate life, but also a few self-revealing pieces. Our favorite was the collection of newspaper articles, publicity shots and her personal letters home when she won a popularity contest that culminated in a ski trip to Sun Valley in 1940. Dad’s bound volume of photos and letters documenting a trip with a college professor in 1936 was amazing in its detail.
Modern photos presented more of a challenge. Compared to the old pictures we had mountains of photos, all carefully mounted, labeled and dated (well, mostly…) in sequential albums. Not only was the sheer volume a challenge, but we were so easily side tracked. “Oh I remember that.” “Who is this?” “Look at this one!” and peals of laughter punctuated our work. The piles grew as we hunted to select representative photos of our family life. More scanning, documenting and saving, ultimately to distribute to family members.
Four solid days of work and we only got as far as the birth of our youngest sister. And three Rubbermaid tubs full of albums still await me. I think I know who to enlist for the final onslaught.
I just hope my brother has as much fun with all the slides.