Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Keeping and Sharing

This is Gloria. She is no relation to me. I met Gloria years ago, she has since passed away. When I met her, Gloria lived with her adult daughter, two great-grandchildren, a pug, and many cats. Siamese were her favorite. She was a unique person-and I mean that as a compliment.

Besides the menagerie, Gloria stockpiled things like VCR tapes-home video of her pets, she and her daughter compiled stacks of scrapbooks made from magazine pictures, and being legally blind (and maybe not so inclined), the house at times was a mess. Today, she would be called a hoarder.

At the time I met Gloria, I was married to a younger generation cousin of hers. Gloria was 78, so I thought she would be a good source of genealogical information. As we talked, Gloria showed me a treasure trove of old photographs, saved by her mother, Bessie. There were so many. It was like winning the lottery.

At that time I was working at a printing & design company. Gloria allowed me to take her photos and scan and save them to disks. There were many other people to whom these images were important. Eventually, I returned Gloria's photos and papers to her. First that job, then my marriage ended, and I moved out of the area. Months later, I went to visit Gloria. In my absence, some well-meaning people had come to Gloria offering help. They cleaned her house for her. Somehow, they had thrown away her photos and all of the genealogical papers with them. Although I was no longer tied to Gloria's family, I was devastated. I felt guilty-as if I had left the photographs unprotected. All those years of Gloria and her mother preserving their history were now gone.

Now having moved VERY far away from that part of the United States, I came across my original disks of Gloria's photos. I posted most of them on facebook. A friend of mine, who knew I was divorced and no longer "related" to the people in this family, wondered in a comment why I had kept the photos. Well, besides still claiming my two nieces from that dissolved marriage, I could not part with the pictures and their stories.

Recently, I was contacted by Gloria's granddaughter, Barbara. Through mutual facebook friends, she had seen the photographs I posted. She had never known digital copies had been made. I had passed around copies of the disks when I made them--but I didn't really know Barbara then, and so she never got a copy. Barbara had grown up in Gloria's home. After Gloria's passing, when the photos were nowhere to be found, she had thought they were lost forever. To be able to give back these treasures was wonderful for me.

When a grandmother of mine passed away, it took three years to sift through the contents of her home. Having survived the depression as a teenager providing for her younger siblings, she later found it impossible to throw things away. But among the fossilized food storage and enough chairs to seat a Sunday School, were amazing discoveries. Letters, diaries, artwork, handkerchiefs hand stitched generations ago, and of course photographs.

Just this week, someone shared with me some family photos I had never seen. I am grateful and supremely excited since she has told me there will be more to see.

So what's in that box under YOUR grandmother's bed ?