Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shoebox full of memories: sifting through my childhood

My 95-year-old grandmother has been slowly but surely cleaning out of her apartment all the stuff 95 years and nine grandchildren will cause to accumulate. This has involved separating and giving back to each grandchild all the cards and drawing and letters he or she sent her over the years. I don't think it ever occurred to me that she would have saved them for so long, but tonight she handed me a folder full of thank you letters scrawled in my uneven print, birthday cards drawn in bright markers, and pictures of her, my grandfather, my mom, my dad, from when I was so young that they barely even resemble people.

The first reason I mention this is that not only did talking about these things and reminiscing about them provide some nice quality time with my grandmother, but listening to my grandmother talk about how receiving these letters and cards and drawings and then looking back over them through the years gave her such joy made me (well, to be honest, not only cry) but realize that just as the letters and cards and photos that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents pass on to us are important and meaningful, going generationally backward it is as well.

The second reason I mention this is that looking over these letters I wrote when I was 5, 6, 7, 8 years old, all the way through high school, I recount feelings and thoughts, stories about the things going on in my life and the people who were in my life. You can see the time period when I stop writing to Grandma and Grandpa and start to just write to Grandma, a clue to future generations that this is the time when Grandpa died, but that's what I was thinking about - future generations. I look at the letters and photos from older generations but sometimes forget about the things I will pass on to my children and their children. When I'm gone, these letters and drawings will give them insight into my life. And the memories that looking at these things jogged - I tell my dad he needs to start recording all his memories about not only his grandparents and parents but about his own life as well, and I guess these things my grandmother handed me made me realize that I, too, will need to record the things I remember about my grandparents and parents and my own life, before I'm too far removed to remember them. It also made me sad to think about future generations that won't have these mementos - they'll have e-mails and digital photos, but an e-mail doesn't show a 5-year-old's handwriting or a distracted teenager's doodle in the corner. These are the memories that within the next generation will be completely lost, which makes it all the more important to hold on to the ones we have!!

I think the scary figures to the left are multiple Easter bunnies?...not quite sure about the disembodied heads to the right...

Why I didn't thank my grandfather as well is beyond 1987, I was eight.


  1. Great post. I have been going through old letters and pictures hoping to organize, but also to gather stories for my family. Merry Christmas.

  2. Thanks! Merry christmas to you and your family as well!