Who doesn’t enjoy looking through photo albums? The answer: No one. Everybody enjoys looking at the images of smiling faces, families gathered around tables loaded down with potato salad, fried chicken, and watermelon, children gleefully singing happy birthday to a another child blowing out candles on a homemade cake, and shepherds wearing bathrobes and lopsided towels fastened around their head in the church Christmas program. Likewise, it gives us a sense of comfort and peace of mind to look back at photos of our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and childhood friends who are no longer here to share life with. And last but not least, looking through old pictures is the very best kind of history lesson for the youngest members of the family.
Case in point: The first time I pulled out an album of pictures to give my grandson Reuben, a look back at his mom's childhood, was one of our best and most special times together. He couldn’t believe his mom looked like ‘that’. He laughed until he cried when he saw her in a beautiful tutu and satin toe shoes. Not because she looked funny (comical), but because it was so…so alien to him. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his mom had been a dancer…a very good dancer.
When Laney saw pictures of her mom (my daughter, Elizabeth), she looked confused. Why? Because it was as if she were looking in a mirror, only she knew she wasn’t. FYI: Yes, they really do look that much alike.
The youngest grandchildren weren’t around while we were still on the farm, so when they see John and I among hundreds of sheep, me in the milk barn or greenhouse, and their parents and aunts and uncle showing livestock at local and state fairs, they are filled with questions about ‘back then’. And their questions open up all sorts of opportunities to share stories they want and need to hear. Stories about who and where they come from.
What I’m trying to tell you is that YOU need to be spending time passing along memories from the past to your kids and grandkids using the pictures you have either so painstakingly cropped, embellished, and scrapbooked, filed neatly into album pages, or shoved in a shoebox. In other words, what you’ve done with your pictures up till now isn’t as important as what you do with them now, which is using them to recall and share your memories with your young people so they will have memories of their own.
So get to it! Spend a day, evening, or even a weekend with your kids and grandkids looking at old pictures. Have fun telling stories about what was happening or special memories of the people looking back at you. Make a game out of deciding who looks like who. Compare the similarities in professions, personalities, and talents in members of the family past and present. In other words, use your pictures to bring your family’s history to life.