As the oldest child of what were once very young parents, I’ve begun to feel more like a sister to them as the years pass. Of their generation rather than one consonant with my siblings.
By the time my brothers and sister (or at least those living near enough to interact on a regular basis) came along, most of the older folk had passed away. I’m the only one, other than my mom and dad, who remember the great-grandparents’ generation as real people rather than photos, or shriveled bodies in hospital beds.
Now the grandparent generation is completely gone and my father and his younger brother are the only ones left of the parents’ generation.
Soon it will be my turn to step into the role of “oldest” and carry on the family stories and history.
That’s quite a burden, at least in my eyes. For the past decade I’ve been searching out our genealogy… that’s fun – more like a puzzle than work… but, now with the death of my mother, I’ve been handed the family photos.
Oh, my god! Hundreds, thousands of images – from daguerreotypes to instamatic… boxes and boxes of them – helter-skelter …
Having been the director of a history museum and archive during one incarnation of my life, I am terrified of finding unidentified photos. I remember sadly the piles of gorgeous pictures in the drawers of the Altamont Museum and Archive with no ID to them… the history of this town… blank.
And, now I am frantically trying to make sure that every photo in our thousands of family images have information written on the back (with archival-quality pens!!) for the younger generation’s future legacy. Already there are many that can’t be identified by my father, whether from loss of memory, or he never knew.
It’s like water slipping through my fingers….
I am the glue that’s holding the family history together… and I’m not sure I’m up to it.