After our parents had both passed away, my sisters took on the task of going through our mother and dad’s Arizona home, deciding what to do with their furniture, housewares, clothing and prized possessions. I was grateful to them for doing this since I couldn’t, and I knew they would divide things fairly.
A few weeks later, I received a big box filled with things they knew I would like to have. Among them were several photo albums and hundreds of loose photos. I remember many of the people and occasions in those pictures; but sadly, a countless number were unmarked. I have no idea who is in the pictures with my family members, the day they were taken or what warranted the photo in the first place. There are also scores of them showing my grandparents and others who may have been relatives … maybe. Again, I have no idea who the people in the photos are, the location or the date.
My mother was terrible at organizing and labeling pictures.
Recently, my eldest stepson expressed an interest in seeing photos from decades ago, when he was a child and I was married to his father. I spent a few hours going through boxes of pictures to find them and did the best I could to label them. This exercise led me to realize that I am no better at this than my mother was.
With the holidays upon us, we will all be taking a lot of photos of family events and activities – with our phones. Many of these pictures will live only on our phones or end up on social media; and that’s where they’ll stay. But, who knows what will happen when it’s our turn to leave this life? Will our kids and grandchildren have access to these cherished memories? Who knows? Technology changes more quickly than we can keep up with it.
I have improved my photo processing a bit by transferring all my treasured pictures from my phone to my laptop, so that I can make prints and label them. There are services that will accomplish this task, but it won’t be the same as labeling the photos myself with names, occasions, locations and dates, and a few personal notes. I’m not ambitious enough for photo albums, but I have started categorizing them to store in large clasp envelopes. It’s important to me, and will be important to my kids when the day comes that they look through “the box.”
Merry Christmas to all and don’t forget: take lots of pictures and label them so that 40 years from now, your grown-up grandchildren and great-grandchildren won’t have to ask, “Who are these people and what are they doing?”