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Our Archives, And The Novelty Of Children

Our Archives, And The Novelty Of Children

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Does the novelty of having kids ever wear off?

The question came to mind yesterday when my daughter, in search of yearbook pictures, complained that there were no albums of her as a baby.

Pictures, yes, hundreds of them. But no albums, she said.

She turned out to be wrong. There were one or two. But her older brother has several, neatly organized. But the majority of Rachel’s baby pictures are mostly in a large box in the basement.

God forbid this should imply favoritism. The pictures are no less valuable. It’s just that the time-consuming activity of organizing pictures easily falls by the wayside as a family grows. When the oldest, Zachary was an infant, there was the ability to put him to sleep with few other responsibilities remaining. No homework, little housework in a small apartment, no playdates to arrange and not as many bills to pay.

As time goes by, fatigue overrides sentimentality. And those things that used to be a joyful “duty” start to accumulate on that list of tasks that will haver to wait until retirement.

When it’s time for his yearbook, her younger brother will have more to complain about. There are fewer pictures of him, and very little video of his early days. Because the sad fact is that although those days are no less precious, we tend to deem them less newsworthy as parenting becomes more routine.

That box in the basement had a close call recently when our basement flooded. I lifted it from the ground in time to avoid too much saturation, and those photos that got wet were easily separated and dried. The scope of the collection amazed me.

I have one family photo of my great grandparents, another of my grandfather as a child, and perhaps a few dozen pictures of my grandparents, who didn’t own a camera growing up.

By the time my children are grown, there will be thousands of photos of them at every stage of their lives, and dozens of video clips. Then thousands of their children. My descendants, God willing, will be able to get to know them, and me, in a way I can’t imagine knowing my great-grandparents, whose voices I have never even heard.

But will great-grandchildren who have never met me be inclined to save those thousands of photos (hopefully scanned digitally by then)? Will it mean enough to them to preserve for future generations?

Hopefully the revolution in digital photography and video has made it more likely that they will. Stacks of albums and old movie reels (that no one knows how to view anymore) may not be passed down through generations. But CDs and DVDs, flash drives and digital albums posted online are far easier to preserve.

Which makes it more important than ever to find the time to organize, and perhaps label those old photos, and make sure each member of the family is equally and properly represented in every medium.

My great-great-grandparents are likely lost forever to history, known to no one alive today. But all the subsequent generations have a chance to gain some level of immortality, so long as we never lose the novelty of preserving our history.

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