Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reflecting at 40 / Capturing Family History

I celebrated my 40th birthday recently, with nearly a week’s vacation from work, a wonderful visit with my mom and some of our out-of-town family, an overnight trip to Niagara Falls with my husband and the kids, and a party (that I threw for myself, natch! ;) with family and a few friends. I’m feeling pretty blessed to have been able to ring in my 40th with so many of my loved ones around me, from my little 5-year-old to my nearly 90-year-old grandmother. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course my mom, who now lives out of state. When everyone gathered for cake, I grabbed my camera and went around and had my picture taken with nearly everyone there! I was raised in a Kodak family – nearly my whole family (as well as myself for a time!) was employed by Kodak – so we take our picture-taking seriously! In preparation for the party, my girls and I had a great time going through old pictures and putting together two picture boards for the party.

My husband and girls bought me a new digital video camera for my birthday, which I just love! My mother bought us a Sony video camera when I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, and it’s served us well these past 10 years, but technology has changed so much – this new Sony is so small that I can fit it in my purse so that I always have it on hand to capture anything at any time! And, with the digital camera, I can e-mail little clips to out-of-town family so they can share in the kids’ special moments.

Another very special gift that I received was from my Uncle Dave and Aunt Charlene – my dad’s younger brother and his wife. Uncle Dave is our family historian, and he has album upon album of family pictures, along with videos, family trees – you name it! He has been having some health problems lately, and they made the drive out for the party but couldn’t stay long. We had chatted during the party and then on his way out he took me aside to give me my gift. He handed me a gift bag and said, “You need to know where you come from to know where you are going” and in the bag was a family tree dating back to the 1600’s (!) along with something I’ll cherish for a lifetime. He had made copies of cd’s with my grandfather (who is no longer with us) talking about his life, and another cd of my grandmother telling her own stories. This touched me so much that I started crying – what a truly special gift to have for myself and for my girls and their children.

Several years ago my mother had old 8MM home movies from her childhood put onto a dvd and she gave me a copy. Having those videos of my grandparents, who have been gone since the 1980’s, is a treasure that I can’t even put into words. To be able to add to that the cd’s of my other grandparents talking about their lives – truly priceless.

Often in families, stories get passed down verbally from one generation to another. Sometimes these stories are forgotten, or details are lost in translation. I have not been one to sit down and put together a family tree – I am lucky to have family members who have done that – but I am trying make a concerted effort to write info on the backs of photos so that I am not the only one who knows who is in the picture or where and when it was taken. My uncle also emphasizes the importance of tape recording or video-taping family members telling their own stories – it is invaluable for future generations and for people interested in tracing their family history.

So, at 40, I’m reflecting where I’ve been, appreciating where I am now and the people I’m with, and looking forward to what lies ahead.


Anonymous said...

Do you mean the videos of Nana that I wanted to watch again that one time?

The Fine Art of Motherhood said...

I meant that I already had that -- not that Nana gave me another one. We'll watch it again soon!