Putting my family in a box

I'm the one in the little overalls, 1954 (© Huffygirl)

My sister and I have started a family archive box.  We decided that almost anyone should be able to make room in their lives for one box. We don’t know where it will end up yet, but we figure we’ll make the box first, then coerce, or elect someone in the family, probably someone younger than us, to be the archivist. Once the archivist takes over, this will require some letting go on our part. Maybe the archivist will decide to rearrange everything, or throw out half of it (hope not) or scan it all and put it on Facebook.  We’ll figure that out later.

So in the meantime, we’re keeping it simple. We’re taking all the old miscellaneous clippings, from Uncle Stan’s obituary to photos of Daddy from the local paper, taping them to white paper with archival photo tape, and putting them into page protectors. There probably is a better way: we could make photocopies of all the newspaper clippings, or scan them into a digital files, but we’re doing low tech for now, because the family archivist might decide to change it all later.

We’ve also got big brown envelopes, one for each family member. So into the envelope labeled “Huffygirl” goes all my childhood stuff. In goes the First Communion group picture where I was made to stand in the second row because I didn’t have the official white shoes. In goes my two baby pictures. In goes the graduation programs, old report cards, and engagement

That's me with the tell-tale black shoes! (© Huffygirl)

announcement. In goes my wedding photo from the newspaper, taken back in the day when the photo featured only the bride, and a two-column article accompanied the picture, describing the bride’s and bridesmaid’s gowns. In goes all the school photos with hideous hair and silly looking glasses, the photos that make my kids say “Why did Dad marry YOU?”

In goes our parent’s wedding pictures, childhood pictures and the family photo album. In goes some of our parent’s things that we couldn’t decide who should take but didn’t know what to do with. Like the prayer book Mom carried up the aisle on her wedding day. The mother of pearl cover is brittle and breaking off from the rest of the book. But we couldn’t discard it. In goes Daddy’s  Army uniform insignia. Some are service bars, maybe some are medals, we can’t tell. As far as we know he didn’t do anything unusually heroic that would have merited an important medal that could go to a museum, so it’s going in the box.

We’re not sure how far the box should go – we’ve got high school graduation photos for most of Daddy’s siblings. Should we disperse these to our cousins or keep them as part of our family history? So far they’re going in the box. We’re thinking that our cousins already have these photos too, but maybe their parents weren’t as good about saving things as ours were, so who knows. But for now, in the box.

There’s still stuff left that can’t go in the box, that we still don’t know what to do with: Mom’s wedding dress, Daddy’s Army and Legion uniforms; Mom’s First Communion veil, circa 1935, and more. We could start another box, but

Mom and Dad, and me at the bottom of the picture (© Huffygirl)

then when would we stop? We could easily end up with multiple boxes of family things that get packed away somewhere because they’re too hard to store, and no one will ever look at because who wants to go through all those boxes? Saving so many boxes would defeat the purpose of preserving family history, as the task would become too lugubrious.  So, for now we’re sticking with distilling our family history and memories down to what will fit in one box. By the time the house is emptied and we’re ready to pound the “For Sale” sign into the dandelion-specked grass, we may have come up with a different plan. But for now, we’ll stick with our original intent: to put our family in a box.

© Huffygirl


22 thoughts on “Putting my family in a box

  1. It is so important to do what you are doing. I have family pictures all over the place. I don’t know who some of them are, and the people who could have identified them for me are dead now. There are so many questions I want answers to but will never receive. I need to at least do what I can so my children have something. Good for you!

    • Thanks. We have found some photos that we don’t know who they are – in fact one will be featured in an upcoming blog. For the most part though, we can identify the important ones. At least you’ve still got time to work on it so your kids will have some recognizable photos.

  2. I love old family pics! This is a great idea. I would join you, but our entire house is a family box……(we are hoarders….) 🙂

  3. I like it! There’s nothing quite like that type of box – it will be a wonderful thing to pull out when the family gets together.

    • Well, I think it had more to do with my parents not wanting to spend money on white shoes that I would quickly outgrow. But it gives me a good story, and everyone can find me in the picture now! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. my mom has these really old photo albulms where there was a sticky background and plastic film to hold them in place. Those photos are basically glued into there, as well as the plastic. If the plastic lifts, we can’t really pull the photo which sometimes has things written on the back…then again, many were poloroid. Everything is over exposed/brown. I don’t think there was a single photographer in our group of family/close family friends. **sigh**

    And, these were abulms to belonged to my aunt so they have friends that aren’t related to us and mean nothing except to laugh at the 60’s look.

    I don’t think there is anything really to pass on to my kids. No one in my hubby’s family took care of pics either have boxes upon boxes and nothing labeled. Is this Bill as a baby, yes, NO- that’s Suzi. There aren’t any of the 2nd child.


  5. My brother and I started something similar with photos, first after we had to put mother in assisted living and we had to clear out the house; then again after she passed away last year.
    There were many photos of people we had no idea who they were, some who may have been friends or acquaintances of her’s. We did not know how to get in touch with those people or even if they were still alive. Those went into the trash box along with so many other photos which just did not mean anything to either of us and/or similar to other photos of the same people.
    The rest of the photos we decided to be more selective of what we kept and the rest we sent on to the family members who were in the photos.
    My brother and I chose some which are special to us individually and took those for ourselves; the rest into a box to be put into albums.

    • We’re not done yet, but it looks like the box idea is going to work. By not putting photos in frames or albums, you can get an awful lot in a box. I hope that someday when the grandchildren and great grandchildren look through the box, they’ll feel like they’ve found a historical treasure.

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