Yesterday my 11-year-old granddaughter, Gabby, helped me start on a project I have been putting off for years, namely hauling down and going through the hundreds of photos I had stuffed away in albums, envelopes, and storage bins. There it was, my life, those of my two daughters, my 5 grandchildren and now my great-grandson, all captured in pictures from tiny wallet size to 11 x 14 wall size. For several hours, my entire family history was sitting in piles all over my living room floor. Going through them one by one, I took an abbreviated trip through my entire 69 years on this planet. Turns out I was busier than I thought I’d been!
After about an hour or so of sorting and reviewing my life, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the task at hand. How could I possibly fit all of these photos neatly into albums? My grandson told me when he helped me move all this stuff into my new apartment to get with the 21st century and scan all the photos onto discs so I can keep them digitally, and for some of them that might work out well. The problem is that: 1. Some of the photos are very old and faded, and would probably not scan well, and, 2. I’d need a ton of discs to hold all of them. The next question I asked myself was this: “Do you really need each and every one of these pictures?” Let’s face it, how many photos of the kids at the pumpkin farm, that we visit every year do I need to keep? How many photos of kids opening Christmas presents? How many shots of autumn leaves, and oceans, and sunsets? And what would happen if I just pared them down to only those that told the story without all the repetition?
The problem, as I came to see it, was that getting rid of the photos felt like getting rid of the memories and I was downright afraid to do that. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s before he died, barely recognizing anyone at the end, and my Mom had her moments of dementia, although not as severe as my Dad’s, before she passed as well. Losing memories scares me to death. What if I didn’t remember my daughters’ births, birthdays and graduations, the births of my grandchildren, the names of my grandchildren? What if I forgot our trips to the pumpkin farm, or my first trip on a plane to visit a new friend in LA, or that awesome vacation to Asheville? What if I forgot my summers in Maine with my sister?
We can’t let our memories, or the fear of losing them, take over and stop us from living our authentic lives going forward. Sure, we want to capture the good times, let go of the bad ones, and cherish each and every moment of happiness, but not at the expense of the new moments waiting for us in the present and beyond. I truly believe that even if the mind forgets, the heart never does. I am constantly calling my granddaughters by their mothers’ names, or their sisters’ names, but my heart still knows they are my beloved grandkids. Heck, I even call my cats by the names of their dear, departed predecessors sometimes but none of that matters when they are curled up on my lap and looking up at me with unconditional love.
So I’ve decided to just keep a few photos of the pumpkin farm and give the rest out to the kids for their own memory albums. I’ll keep one school picture for each year, one or two of each wedding, one or two of each Christmas, and just the very best of the autumn leaves and sunsets. The rest I will pass around to the others. For some of my 21st century techies, I’ll bet holding an actual photo will be like a trip through the Smithsonian to them. It’s never too early to remind them where, and who, they came from.
This week over on the Home Page, our writing assignment will ask us to take our own trips down memory lane and paint a picture with words. As always, have loads of fun (and pleasant memories) with this one, and remember to just keep writing.
Peace and blessings.