Bridging the Generations
By:Dottie bond Nelson
I started scrapbooking in fall of 1994,to pass the time when my Mother was hospitalized for inoperable cancer, in Georgia. My sister and I went through the LARGE boxes of photos that having five children, 12 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren had produced. We broke the mountain into piles by decade, then by each child's progeny. As relatives visited to bid their final farewell to my Mother, we asked them about people in the photos that we didn't know, or places unfamiliar. Whose fancy car was that? Grandfather died giving blood to his brother, leaving 7
young children for grandmother to raise? Some familiar, many new, the stories brought us in touch with our past, and gave us all something to talk about rather than the grief at hand. My Mother had been wonderful about writing dates and names on the backs of many photos, gently in pencil. Belated thanks, Mom!
I brought boxes of photos and the stories back to Seattle with me, and began putting them on acid-free paper. The journaling was as important as the photos, and I continued to call relatives to learn more. I tried to give brief personality capsules with the faces. "Douglas Bond - quiet, artistic, dry wit, loving". One page might hold seven tiny school pictures of a child (now 60 years old) growing up, or just one 8 x 10", with the name and date. The stories filled in where there were few pictures, such as the grandfather that had died so young. I wrote down the way our parents met, and the song our Mother sang to rock the
grandchldren to sleep. I got the name for the first book from the back of a photo, where my Dad had written, "Remember Us." It was his favorite photo of him and Mother sitting together, young and in love. It became the cover photo, also, to "Volume One" of our family's legacy.
The unflattering photos were omitted, and placed in a
photo-safe archive box, with info written on the back. Duplicates were returned to the subject of the photo.
By Christmas I had returned three 3" binders full of photos to Georgia . As a Christmas present, I photocopied (at Kinko's) and sent each child and grandchild his or her best page, with their personality description or best photos. What a response! Everyone LOVED seeing themselves in the context of our family history.
My Dad took the albums to the 1994 Christmas Eve gathering at my nieces's house. He told me that people packed around the albums, poring over their parents, grandparents, and siblings. There was much laughter, and more than a few tears. "I didn't know that!" "I've never seen this 'in order' before." "How did Dottie do this? It looks like a lot of work!"
Since then, I have become the family album "historian". My sister researched our family tree, providing dates and names back to the 1700's. My nieces, nephews, aunts, and cousins send me photos to keep the books current, and when they find anything that will enrich the story of our heritage,such as our grandmother's nursing badge. We add photos to commemorate graduations, marriages, and births.
We document stories that will make future generations know how we lived, such as why my Dad maintains a one-acre farm at 83, to give food to our family and friends; how food is second to him to making people laugh, and feel loved and wanted. That is why we scrapbook - it entertains, amuses, and makes us feel useful. It's best when shared. My sister, nieces, and in-laws have all started scrapbooking over the last few years. We all share pages and ideas, thanks to scanners and copiers.
Most importantly of all, his albums have let my Dad know there is a big family out here that loves him. When our Mom passed away, he wanted to shut down because the center of his universe was gone. Now when people visit (family or not) he pulls out a big book and says, "Look at my newest great-grandson." or "Do you remember when we had this Model
A?" He can move freely between the past, which is now organized and labeled (should he forget names and dates), and the present.
It is the end of January 2000. The albums are brought to the Christmas gathering every year. My sister asked to keep the albums beyond the party eve, for her visiting children
and grandchildren to see longer. My Dad called her last week to say, "You've had my albums long enough. I need them. Oh, and put the photos from Christmas in there before you return them, will you?"
Tomorrow at dMarie Daily: You Are Loved..., by Diana K., Hilton Head, SC