In 1968 Dad bought a new Kodak 126 instamatic camera with easy-load cartridge film to shoot state-of-the-art color photos. He and Mom captured moments of my brothers and me on birthdays and holidays. They snapped multiple pictures of our dogs, Scamper and Quimby. They recorded visits from extended family with posed family group shots. And when we traveled for our annual trip to my grandmother’s home, they took pictures of us along Rt. 66 and, of course, on my grandmother’s porch.
Dad snapped the twenty-four pictures available on the cartridge and dropped it off at a local camera store to be developed. It was not until he picked them up that we could see which ones were keepers.
I always thought Dad could have taken better pictures. If he had only used the person or main subject in the photo as the central focus, the photo would have looked better. I noticed that people were in the far corner or side of the picture and clutter was in the forefront.
Perusing through family photo albums lately I began to cherish all that clutter because I enjoy seeing the pictures of the Magic Chef Oven that Mom cooked and baked on for at least thirty years. I relish seeing the electric percolator that Mom and Dad used daily to brew their coffee for their early morning caffeine fix. I see the white Sunbeam Mixmaster that mom used endlessly beating and mashing together cookies, cakes and potatoes. With this picture I can see what kind and color of carpet and curtains we had in the living room. I see the record player we used to stack and play our 45’s and LP’s in the background of many of our pictures.
Using my digital camera I have always prided myself in the fact that I focused on people and eliminated all the background clutter. And with photo editing I can crop and eliminate the clutter in the pictures which I thought always made the picture look better.
But I think I’ll change that a bit now. I won’t completely give up the close up shots but will definitely begin to take more pictures of the surrounding area so my great-grandchildren may see in the pictures my Nutribullet I use to make a smoothie; the laptop I use for storing and editing pictures, recording stories and surfing the internet; the remote controls used for the television mounted on the wall and the colors, curtains and furniture used today.
Pull out your old family album and take a look past the person in it. It would be a perfect start to Keeping Your Memories of your childhood by writing about the clutter you see in the picture and what special memories it brings to mind.
It would have been priceless if my great-grandmother had journaled or written her life story. It would be fascinating to read about her childhood and teenage years and about the loves that she had in her life.
It would be intriguing to read about the dreams that she had for herself, the reality she had to face in place of her dreams, and the struggles of her everyday life tackling her daily routine of maintaining her home and children in the late 1800’s.
I muse over the picture of Selia who looks like she had hours of laborious work and a number of daily hardships and struggles while trying to keep her family fed and clothed.
Unfortunately, all we have are the facts. My maternal great-grandmother, Selia Victoria Ogden was born December 14, 1848; married Ben Madden on October 14, 1864; gave birth to and raised nine children; and died December 12, 1934.
My mother shared with me that Selia and Ben lived in a sod house on prairie land near Kansas City, Missouri. When it rained, it would be miserable because the rain would drip down through the sod causing the inside to be muddy and damp.
They eventually moved from a sod home to a shack near the lead mines in Duenweg, Missouri. My 93-year-old uncle recalled that Ben and Selia were hard-working people and Selia was strict. He remembers in the late 1920’s his grandmother would occasionally come to visit and give him and his siblings a nickel so they could buy ice from the gentleman who delivered ice with his horse and buggy.
Recording her life story would have kept her legacy preserved. Unfortunately, all we have are a few facts and the perception of her from my mother’s and uncle’s childhood memories.
Keeping Your Memories of your life will be invaluable to your great-grandchildren years from now. You would not be just a picture with a few recorded facts but instead you would be an ancestor who turned life experiences into life lessons for your descendants.
Open up your laptop or grab pen and paper and start recording your life experiences for future generations to read. Start with these questions:
- What is the most important date in your personal history?
- What was the hardest thing that you ever had to do?
- If you could change anything in your life, what would you change?
- Was there one moment in your life that changed everything for you?
My mother as a young woman in the 1940’s.
Tuesday, January 20, is the six-year anniversary of my mom’s passing. Although she hasn’t physically been here with me her spirit has; even in routine every day moments. When the sweet aroma of gingerbread filled my kitchen last week, I felt a connection to her. That day I could visualize how she often made her gingerbread cake on cold winter days. After pulling the gingerbread out of the oven, she would slice it while it was still hot so when we spread the butter on top it instantly melted and soaked into the delightfully delicious cake. Last week it tasted even more delicious with my mother’s memory being with me.
The gingerbread opened the door to the memory bank of my mom. I recalled the memories that she shared with me about her childhood. Her parents were poor during the time that she grew up during the depression years.
As a one year old she moved with her family in 1929 to a drab one bedroom home along with a big kitchen and living room. They cooked on wood stoves and in the winter they sat in front of it along with kerosene lamps to keep themselves warm. They got electricity for the first time when she was eight years old and then they only had a light bulb dangling from the ceiling on a wire cord.
She said they would sit around the wood stove in the winter time and make their own paper dolls using the Sears & Roebuck and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs. They would cut the little girls out and cut out dresses for them out of the catalogs. They also would make paper money and make quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies out of cardboard.
My mom also shared with me how she walked to school come rain or shine. She wore long brown stockings in the wintertime and sometimes the shoes had the soles flopping on her. But come spring and summer she walked barefoot everywhere and even on rocks without any pain.
These memories that I have of my mother have been written and recorded for my children and grandchildren to read after I am gone. If I had not preserved these memories, she would in time be known by no one.
Preserving the legacies of your parents will prevent them from ever being forgotten and future descendants will be able to read these life stories and understand their family heritage. Grab paper and pen or your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your parents starting with the following questions:
- In what ways are you like your parent(s)? And not like your parent(s)?
- What did you enjoy doing with your parent(s)?
- What was your proudest moment of your parent(s)?
- What was the most valuable lesson you learned from your parent(s)?
- What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your parent(s)?
“Memories are times and places that connect our lives. I feel that lives are viewed too modestly by their owners. But lives are precious pieces of time and are as unique as fingerprints.” – Dr. Edward Keller
This forty-six year old picture is dated when you see common people, standing on an observation deck watching travelers boarding the airplanes and listening and watching the landings and take offs. With the tragic times today with extremely tight security it is amazing to see this picture that was taken of my mother and me at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport standing on the observation deck.
The picture reminds me of the many times we drove to O’Hare Airport, long known as the busiest airport in the country. At that time, there were multiple airlines including TWA, Pan Am, Delta, American, Northwest Airlines and Northwest Orient.
When we were picking up or dropping off relatives, we never had to make a quick load or unload because we always parked in the garage and walked with the person to their gate and sat with them until take off.
It was amazing to watch the planes taking off and landing and listening to all the flight announcements. It was great to people watch. I enjoyed watching the mass of people in the terminals who were in suits and dresses. As a young girl, I always envied the stewardesses of the 1960’s who looked like models in their uniforms and hats.
Reminiscing over old photo albums and pictures is enjoyable as you see how times and culture have changed over the years. If you can find a picture of yourself as a child at a park, museum, or well-known location that has changed considerably, start Keeping Your Memories of how different it is today compared to what you experienced.
“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.” ― Frederick Buechner