Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Where Does Our Past Belong?

I spent last week in my childhood home helping my mother prepare to pack and move to Florida.  Not only is it my childhood home, it was the childhood home of my grandfather.  My great grandfather had the house built and it has been a part of my mother's family for over 100 years.

I'm sure you can just imagine the stuff.  Certainly there was plenty of trash.  But there was also so much family memorabilia.  And herein lies my "problem."

Boxes of pictures, letters, account ledgers, and all kinds of paper ephemera were sorted.  Oh...and clippings.  There were tons of clippings.  And as I stood there with these things in my hands I realized that I couldn't let it go.  Not to auction and certainly not into the trash.  Mom is ready to be rid of it, but she was no more ready to pitch it than I was.  So, I assigned myself the honor of keeper of the family archives.  It truly was like opening a time capsule, but most of the contents had a personal connection to me.  I like the sense I get from examining these things.  Another way of life becomes almost tangible.

So, the issue arises as to what to do with all this stuff.  Do I put it in a box and leave it for my grandchildren to find?  Do I scan every piece and create a book that each family member can have?  Do I catalogue it somehow?  And why?  Should I have just let it go?  Will this stuff matter to anyone past my generation?  I like to think it would.  Perhaps the fact that I can't let it go will instill an interest in our family history in my children.  Somehow I feel it's important, but I'm not really sure why.  It's important to me, but I grew up in the place where so many of these people also lived.  The family stories were part of the surroundings.  Will it mean as much out of context?

I feel privileged to have such a sense of where I come from.  I know many, many people are not so fortunate.  Or maybe it really doesn't matter.  Would I be the same person if I hadn't grown up with the ghosts of my ancestors?  It certainly gives me a sense of belief that as long as we are remembered we are not gone.  When I can hold their pictures and touch their belongings, they're no longer mythical characters in the family legends.  They're as real as I am.


This is the back of the house in the mid 30's.  The porch is gone and a room was added.  But the cistern is still there, as is the rock garden.


I blew up a portion of the photo to see who the people were.  This is my great grandparents with and my aunt and my mother as children.


dsonney01 said...

I really like the idea of creating a master archive and letting family know you have it if they want copies. Believe me once everything is gone someone will be sorry- I love the house- I hope it stays in the family. Dannelle

mutualaide said...

Oh, I would scan it all, label it to the best of my ability while 'older' relatives are still living and able to help ... and then I would find a local museum (or even somewhat local) that has an interest in having local history and memorabelia.  Here in our town, we have a Document Center.  It is full of the archives of many a town family and a very interesting place to spend an afternoon.

Keeping these parts of your family will help your children feel connected.  They will feel it because you do.  

I could not have let it go either.  I wouldn't have let it go.

ckays1967 said...

Somehow I feel it's important, but I'm not really sure why.

This is a line of thinking that I could have said myself.

Thank you for sharing.

emmapeeldallas said...

I agree with the master archive idea.  There will surely be someone in the family who will appreciate these things.  I love the pic and the house!


mlraminiak said...

Kat, you have stumbled on SUCH a gold mine.  I know it seems like one more thing to do, but my sister made wonderful scrapbooks for each of my nieces (my late sister's girls) with pictures she scanned that we found in the big box of stuff my parents kept forever.  She wanted to give my nieces a sense of where their mother came from, where THEY came from, really.  Keep the stuff, and keep it in the back of your mind that you can do something like this for your kids and your siblings' kids.  It will be something everyone will treasure.  Lisa  :-]

thesheatons said...

I love the archive idea too. We have a stack of letters my great great grandmother wrote to my great grandfather. We don't have his-she lived in Oklahoma; he was in Oregon. But they're great snapshots of a time when you grew what ate near where you lived and bad harvests could be a real problem. Or rumors of small pox or some other disease in the area. They're part of the tapestry of your family.


tjbutt31 said...

Keep the stuff handy. Sometimes just seeing a certain picture or item can really change a foul mood. Ive been going through my stuff alot lately!