Last summer I moved my mother out of the condo she had resided in for 10 years into a smaller “independent living” apartment. In years prior, I had moved both her and my grandmother out of homes they had lived in for 40+ years. These types of moves conjure up all kinds of emotions- sadness, nostalgia, anger, apprehension, dread. Contemplating this got me thinking about how such a move can really be an opportunity to more deeply explore our family history, and the role the places we live play in it.
A house becomes so much more than 4 walls and a roof as our families grow inside it. It transforms into the place that we think of as the keeper of the memories- newlyweds setting up housekeeping, bringing baby home from the hospital, birthday parties, homework sessions at the kitchen table, bumps and bruises, accidents and injuries, backyard barbecues, proms, weddings. The cycles of everyday life and the flurry of important milestones all take place with the house as a backdrop. If the walls could talk, the stories they could tell!
But walls can’t talk, so we have to do the talking for them. Cleaning out a parents’ home can be an opportunity to find the documentation of all these memories and take steps to preserve them, so the legacy of the home can be passed down through the generations. We may never again pass through the doors of the house, but the home continues to be alive in our memories. Many years from now when someone drives by the house, which may be greatly altered, they can smile and recall the stories that have been carefully preserved and passed down.
There are bound to boxes and boxes of pictures that capture those special times in that very special place. Now is the time to develop a system for digitizing them- software and scanners are developing and changing at a very fast rate. One product I own which I heartedly endorse for both its convenience and performance is a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. It’s a small flatbed scanner that runs on batteries and scans everything to an SD card that can be easily transferred to a computer. It’s great for scanning things on the go, and can be purchased on Amazon. There are so many options for software that edits and organizes digital photo files that certainly there would be one that would fit your budget, time constraints, and technological capability. I use the free software offered by Google called Picasa. It’s basic features make it easy to edit and organize your digital photo files.
Once you have them scanned, share them! A great vehicle for this is starting a Facebook group. I have had a group for descendants of my great great grandparents, Alfred and Lydia Spencer, for several years now. This group includes 50-odd members from all over the country. Some of us know each other, some of us have never met. There’s nothing like posting an interesting old family photo to get a discussion going. We have debates on who the people were, what occasion they were celebrating, whose home they were in. Somehow remembering and reflecting on these people and places makes them feel like they are using Facebook right along with us in 2015!
Saying goodbye to a home that has meant so much over the years can be painful, but it can also be an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the past. As I get ready to leave my home of 24 years, I know the memories will stay with me, because I’ve got the tools to make it happen.