Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Preserving Family History

"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family"
                                                                               - Anthony Brandt.  

My mom is the keeper of the family history.  She has spent countless hours collecting birth/death certificates, written letters to supposed relations, searched the Newberry library for evidence, and finally compiled the names, dates, and memorabilia. Perhaps out of a desire to save future generations the effort, my mother has made it her mission to document her own life in photos.  

Mom is rarely without her camera.

Rarely will she venture out without her camera.  We once overheard a mother speaking to her young child, explaining that he shouldn't waste his film.  "Only take the picture if you know it will be good."  Mom couldn't wrap her head around that telling me, "better to take a picture and see that it didn't turn out than to have missed the opportunity".  Perhaps it is from her that I inherited my fondness for photography, however, I must state that my subjects are rarely of the human variety - but that is a post for another day.  

As a psychology student, I am enrolled in a human development course.  One assignment required an interview with a senior citizen so that we could apply geriatric theories to our subject.  I chose my grandmother, Bernice.  At 82, she has gained a greater perspective on life. She was the perfect choice.

During the preparation of my paper, I found myself connecting with the subjects of her stories.  Although I had heard many of the them before, there was something unique about the interview process that brought to life these individuals I had never met.  From her descriptions, I could imagine the house she grew up in, what family dinner at her home was like, and how frightening/exciting it must have been to elope at 18 and travel from Sioux Falls to Texas with my grandfather. Afterwards, I felt a sense of pride in her accomplishments and for the life she has lived.  

Mom has always wondered which of her own children should inherit the compiled family history journals and  memorabilia that is "her life" (currently occupying 50+ photo albums and an old chest) after she passes.  For a long time my sister was the chosen one.  Perhaps we'll need to talk about that now.

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