My daughter is one of the most organized people I know. I believe she falls just short of being OCD (Obsessive/Compulsive). She recently took on the task of completing her family genealogy. She has done incredible research and not only found new information, but has been able to correct some of the missing or incorrect data. If you walk into her house you will find organizer boxes and piles of papers organized by family lineage. She also has all the data up to date in a website.
This was not the first project she dove into with this fervor. Pictures were the first frontier for her. She started with pictures of her son and moved on to family, friends, and life events. Her pictures are organized on her computer and in albums. Of course before they made it to the albums they were in piles or boxes. Pictures are organized by person, by date, by event, and more. It has been exciting to watch the progress.
I made the mistake of mentioning that my pictures were in albums, boxes, and even a shoe box. I pointed out a few of the albums when she was at the house one day.
“Mom, they are in albums but the albums are all mixed up. I mean there are pictures in one album of your younger siblings, some from Grandma Claudia, a few of AJ(my grandson), and some I don’t recognize at all.”
“I do have a few albums from the 70′s that are in order.” I did at least put some in albums so they would be protected. I really need to get them all in albums.” It was an innocent statement or so I thought.
“Where are your other pictures, Mom?” I lead my daughter to my room and pulled out a beautiful, rather large hatbox. I opened it to show her the stacks of pictures. I could see the horror in her eyes.
“There are more.” I pulled out a plastic container with pictures, memorabilia, and newspaper clippings. I could see that she was just a bit shocked. She left my house that day with the hat box, the plastic container thing and a couple of albums with loose photos. I was instructed to bring the rest to her house. I didn’t mention the photo discs or ones on my computer. I would sneak that in later.
I took the rest to her house a couple of days later. I wanted to explain the historical perspective on picture taking and storage. She comes from the generation of digital photos. Snap some pictures, plug in the camera to the computer, and you have an instant photo album complete with name and date. In my life, we had to go to the store and buy something called film. It had to be the right size and speed for your camera. You took pictures and at the end of 12, 24, or 36 pictures you rewound the film and took it to a store. They would take three or so days to process your film. Then, drive back to store and retrieve your pictures. Now that was if you remembered to take the film. On occasion you would find rolls of film from two years ago that had not been processed. When you got those back from the store, you often didn’t know where they were taken or who some of those people were in the group. My daughter smiled and said she understood. She remembered film cameras.
Over the next few months we would have frequent conversations that went something like this.
“Mom, you have to come over and look at these pictures. They have no date or names on them. Why didn’t you write on them?”
“I didn’t think I needed to write anything on them. I thought I would remember. I guess I was wrong.”
“Mom, why did my brother wear the same Big Bird shirt all the time? I mean all the time as in two years in a row. He also had the same shoes forever. How is that possible?”
“Um, he liked the Big Bird shirt? Maybe we had more than one in different sizes. And maybe he liked the shoes so much we got another pair in bigger size.” Truth is, I have no idea why. It was 30 years ago.
“Mom, how old was I in this picture? Where was this one at a fair taken? Who are these people? When did we go camping at the beach?” I don’t know the answers. Dang, I don’t even remember going camping.
“Mom, my hair is long in this one so I have to be four but this one has short hair and it looks like I am three. I know I cut my hair off one time. When was that? Was I three or four?” This is a shortened version of the conversation that took place on more than one occasion.
I love and appreciate the time and energy she has put into this project. I have had to console my daughter on a number of occasions. I have put my arm around her and told her that she might just have to guess about some of the dates and events. She looks at me with her big blue eyes and acknowledges her acceptance.
“Mom, I really just wish you had written something on the back of these pictures. It would have been such a big help.” I lower my head and admit my shortcomings.
When I am 90 and sitting looking at these albums I will be so happy just to be able to look back my life, my children, grandchildren, and friends in pictures, even if we have some dates wrong and we don’t remember everyone’s names.