“We are the last generation carting around boxes of old photos,” my friend Danielle said to me. I had just finished telling her the stressful and yet disaster-averting story of a leak in the basement, right next to where we store the family photos. It could have been terrible, but was only a headache: the photos were fine, but had to be pulled out of the damp cardboard boxes. Only a few were ruined, none that I considered a loss.
It took a few hours to fix the leak and reseal the pipes, and then I got to sorting. First came the late 80s, then I found the mid-90s, then our family vacations, including 30-year-old brochures and menus (I didn’t keep those). I found my grandmother’s very large and elaborate diploma from a Boston-area middle school, and her small and efficient diploma from her training as an occupational therapist. My people don’t fall into the hoarding category, but we are keepers. It’s a wonder none of us are archivists or librarians... but maybe that could be my new side gig.
I should mention that my father was a professional photographer and our attic held a darkroom, and if he was going to shoot a photo he would likely shoot a whole roll of film. So our family photos are voluminous. And we almost lost them.
So I invested in an efficient scanner, taking my role as family archivist a little more seriously, and I have started selecting the photos we will want to look back on. There is an entire roll of film for most of our birthdays – with an awkward teen holding up one present after another, the cake coming out of the kitchen, and at least six of us blowing out the candles. So I’ll keep the silly photo of my dad pretending to eat the whole cheesecake, and my 13-year-old sister holding up her very own Walkman (we all know that is a personal, portable cassette-player, right?).
Will my children cart around these boxes into their own future households? I don’t know. I do know that it’s been a lot of fun to look at the photos of my childhood now that I have children. And I know that the whole family can look at them more often when they are in a searchable database, instead of in boxes in my basement. So I’ll start from there, scanning photos, sharing them, and enjoying them with my family. And throwing out photos of my awkward teen years. Kidding! (Mostly.)