Pulling Out Memories

For years I’ve been saying I need to organize my photographs.  I have many albums with photos falling out of them and big boxes of pictures randomly thrown together, none of them labeled, no details or circumstances noted. The older I get, the more I worry that I will leave this world with all these treasures left in chaos, and my children will throw their hands up in frustration when they come upon them, shaking their fists at the heaven and yelling, “Mom, why were you so disorganized?” I hate the thought of being yelled at, even posthumously.

When my daughter was here a couple of weeks ago, she took the matter into her own hands. She dragged me to a craft store to buy me scrapbooking materials to create my first annotated photo album. “I’m not creative,” I protested. “I won’t be able to do this. It will be a disaster.” All my whining fell on deaf ears. We walked out of Michaels with a ton of supplies, my daughter eager to get me started in the short time we had before her visit was over and my resolve to try had waned.

imageMy daughter is the queen of scrapbookers, and putting a phenomenal photo album together in short order is not only a joy for her, it comes easily. She has artistic abilities I think she inherited from her Uncle Tony and my father. I, on the other hand, didn’t even inherit the skill to draw a decent stick figure. (Mama did teach me to cook, though. Thank you, Mama.) Emily helped me organize the first couple of pages, showing me how to choose a good layout and how to cut the craft paper to the right size and round the corners so it would fit in the slots. She put me under the supervision of my eleven-year-old granddaughter, and the first time I tried to cut the paper on my own, my granddaughter had to take it out of my hands, patiently show me the proper way to put it on the cutting board and how to use the corner-rounder-thingy.

I haven’t had a chance to touch the project since that day because we all left for our D.C. vacation, I had to clean up the house from the kids’ visit, do laundry, go grocery shopping, play the piano, water the plants, straighten my drawers, and then we went away again for our grandnephew’s christening. Finally, yesterday I told myself, “No more excuses,” and, with trepidation, began working on the album on my own.

imageI only had an hour and a half to commit to it, but looking at those pictures and thinking about what to say about them in the small space the binder allows, the time flew by, and I found myself wishing I could push aside all my other responsibilities and devote myself to this one project for a few weeks, nonstop. The memories come flooding back at times, or sometimes they are just a trickle, and I shed a tear or two thinking back to some of those wonderful and long-past times. I know I will come across many pictures, as I work on this project, that I won’t remember in detail. My wise daughter said those will be the times I sit with my husband over a glass of wine, and we both try to pull memories out of our heads. Thank you, my sweet daughter, for making me do this.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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46 Responses to Pulling Out Memories

  1. Jiawei says:

    We can all use a friend like your daughter, as we all have those messy photos scattered around the house. My photo organizing skills basically involved in sliding them into album pockets, with no notes, comments or anything. Last month when we were visiting my in-laws, I did see boxes and boxes of photos lying around, waiting to be sorted. My mother-in-law vowed to get her hands on them. You think she can borrow your daughter for a week? 🙂

  2. I am so flattered!! We didn’t even tackle a traditional scrapbook system – just a pocket system. I’m serious about you meeting me for a scrapbook retreat some time. I would be in sheer HEAVEN! Love you mom.

  3. pattisj says:

    I love those systems with the neat pockets. It looks like you’re doing a great job!

  4. Margie says:

    You have reminded me that I really need to do something with the shoe boxes full of photos that I have!
    I am going to scan some of the photos of the kids from when they were little so that we all have copies of them. I expect I am more likely to do that than scrapbooking!

    • Coming East says:

      I’m just afraid the kids won’t know what the pictures are all about if I don’t annotate, Margie. The grandchildren certainly won’t know. Besides, I love the memories that emerge as George and I sit and discuss the pictures.

  5. Dianna says:

    Maybe your daughter should come make me do that with my photos….!

  6. Amy says:

    The last pic looks so nice! I’m kind of encouraged, but am not ready to start though…

  7. You too, huh? My photos are a mess! I did manage to identify people and dates on them, something I learned the hard way from the many unidentified in my mother-in-law’s stash of photos. I thought I was organized by storing all of our photos in chronological order in pretty photo boxes. Then both sets of parents passed away and we inherited all of theirs. Yikes. And the kids, when they are home, rummage through to find this picture or that and somehow all the photos are a jumble again! So, congrats on stepping into the world of scrapbooking. It’s like a black hole, you just keep going and going. Both of my daughters made scrapbooks of their high school days and convinced me it was something I’d enjoy. Several years ago while I was recuperating from cancer surgery, I did start a scrapbook for my son just with all of his sports photos (he started playing as a kindergartener and played 4 sports). I managed to finish and display it at his high school graduation party. I had all of these grand plans to make more but… life got in the way. So I wish you much success as you work on this task and lots of joy while you reminisce over the photos and the memories!.

    • Coming East says:

      It is such slow-going, Mama, but I’m enjoying it. I would love to take one or two days a week and do nothing but work on it, but I have so many other commitments, I can’t. Aaarrrggghhhh!

  8. You daughter ought to become a scrapbook consultant. She could haul out the boxes of photos we all seem to stash away and help us make them presentable. First time here, and I really like your writing style!

  9. Huffygirl says:

    I know just how you feel Susan. Although I’ve done many ordinary albums, I still have many boxes of unalbumed photos. My husband and I started an album of our Ireland photos from 2006 in scrapbooking fashion, and still do not have it finished. If I could just spread all the stuff out and leave it, and work on when I have a minute or two, I could get it done. Can you send your daughter my way now?

    • Coming East says:

      Several people have asked for my daughter, HG. Maybe she could start another career? Haha. She put together a beautiful album for us of our family trip to Cape Cod last summer. It comes so effortlessly to her, and it’s such a struggle for me.

  10. Al says:

    This is an awesome task. Fortunately for me, Patty, has done a nice job of getting us organized with these. I was looking for some pictures for my birthday blog and went to her storage and found just the ones I wanted in the well-labelled folder. Good luck…the secret is giving yourself all the time you need….then it’s not so overwhelming.

  11. Pamela Johnson says:

    I share your dislike of organizing pictures. The only scrapbooks around here have been assembled by my son and late mother. But you may appreciate them some day. Elderly people love revisiting the past, and sometimes that is the only way to engage them in conversation. Our grandmother (Mattie) loved to look at old photos and reminisce. She used to say “I want things to be the way they used to be.”

    • Coming East says:

      How I miss her, Pammy! I have so many old photos of Mom and Dad’s, and there is no one left who can tell me the stories that go along with them.

      • Pamela Johnson says:

        I just had the neatest dream. Our grandparents (we called them Mamo and Papa) were very much alive and were going through dressers and chests looking for momentos from the past. They were walking around, without the disabilities of old age. Even I was enjoying myself, finding secret drawers that contained treasures I never knew existed. We were all having a good time. And then I woke up–realizing I was alone in the present–and in a house that needed cleaning. My disappointment upon awakening was profound. (Has that ever happened to you– waking up from a good dream?) Well, maybe this portends of better times and better places ahead. I do so hope to find the joy I had today.

      • Coming East says:

        I hop you find that joy, too, Pammy.

  12. susan says:

    Loved this! Wish I had your daughter and that my parents and grandparents were like your daughter. Reason–
    Last summer, visiting the home I grew up in where my brother now lives, old family photo albums and boxes of unnamed photos of relatives created curiosity and frustration. I invited 5 cousins (ages around 50-86) to bring photos to share and identify and have lunch. We loved it; agreed we didn’t have enough time. I shared this, “Generations Share Photos and Family History,” on my blog last August (21st) and am thinking you might enjoy it.

  13. Shary Hover says:

    I have a friend who is an expert at photo organization and scrapbooks. She also has lots of fun tools to work with, so when I need to tackle my stacks of pictures, I take them to her house and we work on projects together. Thanks goodness for these artistic people like my friend and your daughter.

  14. Children are our greatest teachers.

  15. Last fall I finally dug out the HUGE box of photos I had ‘tucked’ under the stairs and started sorting through them (first year by year, then month by month, finally event by event – I had, at least, kept them in their original photo store envelopes) and put them into indexed photo boxes. There were over 20 years’ worth of pictures there and I was immediately transported back in time as I went through the events of my boys’ lives (and mine) – the hours slipped away. Now I have to get them into albums (unfortunately, I don’t have a creative daughter or patient granddaughter to help, so I’m on my own). Great post – thanks for the inspiration to actually get on with it

    • Coming East says:

      Good for you that you’ve taken the first step. I think the most important step is the annotation. I have so many pictures from my parents and I don’t know the circumstances, the year, or even who some of the people are.

      • After my mother died (in 2012) I took possession of her and Dad’s ‘family’ albums. Fortunately, she had the foresight to put names and dates to most of the people and events; still, there are some that are a complete mystery. I wish I’d gone through them with her before she passed away.

      • Coming East says:

        Don’t we always wish we had asked more questions, Margo? When I finish this huge project, I’m going to have to put together an album of just my family before I met George, and that will include all those pictures my parents left without labels. I’m not looking forward to it.

  16. You will love this! Each year, I have made one during the summer. I’m so glad to get the best ones and set them off on a page with an accompanying story. So glad daughter made you do this…it is so absorbing. btw I had to do a doubletake when I saw the photo in the reader…this looks like my table…candlesticks, revere bowl, latest project with the exact same paper cutter spread out all over the dining room table.

    • Coming East says:

      Haha, Georgette. Love that our tables look alike. This will take me more than the summer, though, because I have so many interruptions. Things I have to do when I really want to be working on this project.

  17. lulu says:

    These days all my photos are on my computer, somewhat organized. For those special memories I make a book which, I guess, is kinda like scrap booking. You are right about the memories photos evoke.

  18. I’m not a scrapbooker or now with digital, don’t even make photo albums. Sad! This sounds like an ambitious but worthwhile project that you and your family will appreciate. Good for you!

  19. I am in photo organization envy right now. Seems like our photos have something in common, complete disorganization. You may have just guilted me into get my act together. Good luck with the project, so far it looks great!

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