These are the thoughts that hatch as I go through seventy plus years of family photos.
It comes down to being the last living person who has any real understanding of some of these photos, and people. My girls knew my parents, but only in the capacity of children. They didn’t know Grandaddy at all, even though Thing 2 is named for him.
I’m trying to pare down photos of my Grandaddy, mom, and dad, and keep only what tells a story. And then share those stories and let Thing 2 decide how she’s going to proceed. I don’t want her to have to sift through photos and wonder who’s who. Who’s important. Or that she should feel obligated to keep them without being able to answer those questions.
I don’t want her to feel guilty about parting with anything she doesn’t like, want, or understand.
I’m being mindful about each photo I touch. I’m saving much more than I’m actually inclined to, simply because I want to give Thing 2 the opportunity to touch these same photos and see if they mean anything to her.
One example is a letter my great uncle sent to Grandaddy and my grandmother in 1948. My mom was about to celebrate her 3rd birthday and my great uncle was sending pics of being in the army. That was what actually initiated the four and a half hour call to Thing 2. I’m saving all correspondence for her now, so she can see the handwriting and photos and make her own choices.
This process is helping me feel close to my family, but also picking at the scab of grief.
My Grandaddy died in 1992.
I miss him every single day. Not purposefully, it’s just there. A part of me. In my skin. It’s comforting and a sad at the same time. He has always been a part of me and always will. He was my first love. The one who helped me see that love didn’t have to be cruel and conditional.
My mom died in 2011. Mostly I’m relieved I can’t disappoint her anymore. But there are times when I miss the idea of her. Sometimes you just want your mom, even though you know she won’t actually bring you any comfort.
A part of me wishes she could see Thing 1 be Baby K’s mom. But only as long as she kept her criticisms to herself.
My dad died in 2014.
I miss him. The relationship we were building in the last few years of his life. After he came out he was different. Like, he had spoken his truth and could breathe freely for the first time in his life. He loved YBW and was building a strong friendship with him. He was becoming a wonderful grandfather to nearly adult girls and they loved that. I find myself still thinking, Oh! I should call Daddie and tell him…
Going through these photos is helpful.
I feel that twinge of missing them. But I feel peaceful in that.
Seeing pics of Grandaddy in his whites. Or wearing a red wig and making crazy faces.
Or my parents when they were young and actually thought they loved each other.
I want to share as many stories with Thing 2 as I can remember! I want her to know her family.
I’ve got a million photos of me as a little girl, teen, etc. I look so forward to sharing those stories with her!
However arduous this process may be, I’m so joyful to be going through it.
I look forward to sharing stories with her about her childhood. The ones she doesn’t remember. I’m hopeful seeing and touching these photographs will trigger some of them for her. If not, I’ll tell her everything I can remember.
Thing 1 said it wasn’t as much that she didn’t care about the photos as it was she didn’t want to go through thousands of photos to find the six she wants. I’ve solved that problem for her. She can go through hundreds to find the six she wants. I want to share stories with her too, but she remembers so much more than Thing 2 simply because she has three more years of life.
How’s that for a story?
Is it only with the power of hindsight we begin to truly see? To truly understand?
I don’t know. But I want to share these stories and these photos with the people I love. I want them to be meaningful and maybe even powerful.
This is us.
This is our life.
This is our history.
What story is more important than this?