Tag Archives: memories

A Suitcase of Memories

me and my grandad

When I look through old photographs with my kids, they are full of questions.

  •  Who is in them?
  • When and where they were taken?
  • How old was I ?

Photographs are a wonderful record of the past but when I am no longer here, will  a photograph  be sufficient to tell my story?
I have recently  lost people from my life. Listening to their eulogies, made me realise how little I really know about them. When I am gone, what will my children know about my childhood? What will they remember me telling them? What will they know about family they barely knew or never met?

my grandad driving a lorry in WW2

In my grandad’s last years, he kept his memories in a suitcase by the side of his chair. It clearly gave him comfort to browse old papers and photographs. The suitcase was a treasure trove of family history.  Each photograph was carefully labeled with a year, a description and who appeared in the photo. There were many photographs of people and places from World War II. Accompanying them were letters, cinemas tickets, call up papers and other fascinating historical documents.

My personal favourite is this safe-conduct paper, presented by German soldiers when they surrendered.

safe conduct paper German soldier ww2
This inspired me to add descriptions and dates to photographs from my childhood. Over time, I’d like to catalogue our digital photographs to provide more detailed descriptions.

Coincidentally, when sorting boxes in the garage, I  came across a box of keepsakes. I often wonder if I hoard too many personal things and considered clearing out some of the box. I found  scrapbooks of my theatre days and old video tapes of shows I was in. I also found 2 boxes of wedding cards. These seemed prime material for a clear out, but inside the boxes, I found many more cards than I had imagined, giving a clear picture of significant people in our lives at that time. The boxes also contained the booking details from our honeymoon and keepsakes from the trip, reminding me of details I had almost forgotten. Detailed memories are quickly forgotten. These seemingly sentimental keepsakes, will perhaps feature in my suitcase of memories one day?

wedding memories

It is always hard to balance what to keep and throw away.  Perhaps in the modern age of social media it isn’t as important? I’m glad my grandad treasured his suitcase of memories and left them for us to know what mattered to him. I’ll continue to document my life and hope when I’m just a memory, my family will value them too.

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Watching Family Videos from 20 Years Ago

I lost my mum 11 years ago.  My children have never met her.  They have seen photographs and I talk about her a lot but they don’t really understand who she is.

With this in mind I asked my dad if I could borrow the DVD footage he has of her so that I could show the children.  This starts in 1992 when we had our first camcorder.  I was 21 years old.

My expectation of watching the video was that it would be really difficult and that I would spend the evening blubbing into my pillow.  In fact it had the opposite effect. Watching a family party featuring my mother, grandmother and great aunts who are no longer with us made me feel really warm inside.  It brought back memories of large family gatherings and the characters within them that could be so easily forgotten.

Watching myself was interesting too.  I was surprised at how little I said even in comfortable environments.  I could feel how I might be perceived by others and it gave me a useful insight into myself.  Not that I think I still behave like my 21 year old self but it made me think a lot about the importance of communicating (something I have been reflecting on a lot recently).

It also made me think how lucky our children are.  They have the capacity to record their memories on film so that their children will not only be able to see what mummy looked like when she was young, but they will also be able to watch events and see how she behaved at them. They can preserve those everyday moments that are so quickly forgotten.  I wonder whether in the light of this our perception of history will change? We will have a clear picture of what it might be like to live as an ordinary person during a given age in addition to learning about key historical events.

It was a great exercise to watch these films. My children were fascinated by my parents’ wedding film (no sound as it was transferred from cine film).  They could see how quiet the roads were, how the cars were different and that my dad once was a young man with hair. There are members of my family that I only ever remember as being old, how precious it would be to see them when they were young, not only in photographs but  also how they behaved.  My parents told me what their grandparents were like, but I never had a clear picture.  My children will be able to hear my stories but also see what their grandmother and great-grandmother were like .  How precious is that?

One of the main reasons we made the decision to have our own wedding filmed was that the footage would include family and friends who over time would be gone and we felt it was a special way to preserve their memory.

I must make an effort to take more video of our family. Filming the everyday things and not just special events because they tell us so much and jog memories that would be more easily forgotten.