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.