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?
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 Accompanying them were letters, cinemas tickets, call up papers and other fascinating historical documents.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.
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?
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.