I originally wrote this a little more than ten years ago. The older I get, the more I see the wheel of time turning. I don’t necessarily like it, but there’s no fighting it.
A while back I took on the task of collecting and archiving old family photos. Partly I wanted to do it because I knew there were some great photos of days and people long gone, but also it occurred to me that should a fire or something occur, there was the risk of losing precious memories of our family’s past. I know it’s morbid to think that way, but how many times do we read about it happening to someone else? I don’t want to see any of us be that “someone else”. You can replace a television or couch, but not a one of a kind photo of your great grandfather sitting on his grandfather’s lap. That’s just one of many treasures I have found so far in this project.
And what a project it has become! I had no idea how long it would take to sift through hundreds of photos, trying to figure out who is who, and where. The scan them, archive them to the proper file, because after all this involves more than one family. It’s definitely a “labor of love”.
In doing this I have stepped back in time, seeing my family history play out in front of me like a story book.
I see the town in Ireland Annie, my great grandmother, came from in 1918, thatched roof house and all. There’s Uncle Pete, her brother, who I only met once when I was little, and my only memory is of a nice old man with white hair in a suit.
Then I see the photos of my great grandfather in his youth, and then a little older, and then there they are, Annie and “Pa”, soon joined by my grandmother and her siblings.
Then with the click of a mouse button I can see my other great grandparents who came here from Eastern Europe to escape the Bolshevik Revolution. They settled on a farm at the end of a private road on East Hill. They were poor, you can see that in the pictures. Still you can see they were strong and proud. They worked hard, and played just as hard when time allowed. There in some of those pictures is my grandfather, skin darkened by endless hours in the fields. His eyes seem so intent and serious for a man his age.
Then there’s my grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day.
Then there they are at the farm, holding my infant mother.
Then there’s Mom and her sisters growing up.
There’s Mom and Dad graduating High School, living in Iceland while Dad was stationed there in the Navy, soon holding me, my younger brother, then another….
It’s all there in pictures.
Still the story continues, with my children, nieces and nephews. Someday there will be grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, and the story will continue.
To me that’s key, to recognize my place in the story. I’m not the end, but a chapter in an ongoing tale told by the people in those pictures as well as those generations before them. It’s incumbent upon me and the rest of us in the present to preserve that for the future generations.
It’s a labor of love, built on love.