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Entries in family (4)


How do you Keep Memories?

With the arrival of our granddaughter, there’s been renewed interest in capturing, sharing and storing memories.  How you do so has changed through the years, and provides an interesting perspective on family.

My daughter has been taking pictures of her new niece and putting them into a collage using a smartphone app called Pic Stitch.  Using a monthly photo with Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes fame), a real sense of her growth is emerging looking at the collage.  It’s fun to look at, and fun to share on Facebook.  I look forward to the collages; one is included in this post.

A couple decades ago we did things differently.  We didn’t have smartphones, we had dial phones used for talking (with real dials, no buttons.)  We had cameras, and you would take the film to the drug store or photo store to be developed.  Prints were pricy, so were used sparingly.  Friends wouldn’t see the photos unless they came over to the house or a handmade physical collage went “on the road.”

We kept track of our children’s growth by holding a pencil to the top of a child’s head and marking the wall.  When growing up, my parents made marks on a wall behind a furnace so they would not be disturbed.  The problem is inevitably someone moves, and those memories are lost.

When we had children, we wanted to do the same thing.  We were the second owners of a house where the previous family kept their heights on a garage wall.  When finishing and painting the garage, we preserved the height chart by not painting over it.  In fact, we just added to it.

In contemplating this post, my thoughts kept running to the house with our childrens’ heights in the garage.  “What ever happened to all those?”  We moved out 14 years ago, certainly they were not there.

Curiosity (and a confluence of events) had me driving to our former home.  Would the current owner think I was nutty, or intruding?

“What luck,” I exclaimed to nobody.  “The garage doors are open and there is someone in the garage.”

Introducing myself to the owner and asking about the wall, he smiled and assured me the wall was intact.  He even offered to move his car to help with pictures.

Sure enough, the wall was very much intact. (See photo.) The only change was the addition of other children’s heights over the 14 years since we lived there.  The history was on the wall!

Here was a house, built in 1955…holding nearly 60 years history preserved over four owners who never communicated about saving a section of the garage.  Four sets of families respecting their predecessors and preserving for perpetuity (or at least for now) the memories of those children.

I know the original owners of that house are gone, with their name preserved on a stone marker somewhere.  Would they believe their children’s height markings lovingly scribed on the wall would still be there?

How you preserve memories is something you and your family need to consider.  Family albums are in my basement for others to look at years from now.  Ancestry.com lets you look up public records after they become public!  Facebook seems to hold all recent history of my family, and I wonder if Facebook will have my grandchild’s photos in 60 years.

How are you preserving your family memories?


What Are Your Family Events?

Parties drain me.   This is an attribute of being an introvert, while extroverts get energized at parties.  The exception is a family event….where laughs abound and fond memories are formed.

It doesn’t even need to be my own family event!  Years ago we were moving at Christmas time.  All our possessions were packed including holiday decorations.  A kind family invited us over to their house to share Christmas dessert.

We were warmly welcomed by this family.  The event was a typical family holiday event.  Great food and lots of it, the children playing with their toys, the slightly inebriated uncle, and in their case the grandparent sadly fading with Alzheimer’s.  While it wasn’t “our” family, we enjoyed the food, the story telling and jokes (especially when the jokes were “interpreted” by some of the guests.)  We left with the warmth of a family event.

Aunt Vanessa and DJ cracking upAnother family has their Greek Easter traditions.  Friends and family are invited to this event, where delicious foods are shared (both traditional Greek foods like spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) and lamb, as well as some of the guests’ family favorites like upside down Dutch apple pie.) 

At this year’s event, four generations of family were in attendance.  Everyone from a two year old “ball of energy” to the 90 something year old great grandmother (conserving energy) attended with big smiles and looking forward to an enjoyable day.  Aunts, Uncles, cousins….all attend.

As with many family holiday events, the appetizer “grazing” is a meal in itself!  This is followed by a plate filling feast of food.  Then, this family plays a game called, “Egg Fight.”

After dinner, everyone heads outside as this game can make a bit of a mess.  The game is played with hard boiled eggs. Two people tap their eggs - if an egg cracks that egg is “out,” and the non-cracked egg moves on. This goes on until the winner is declared.

This game wasn’t one shared in my Midwest Irish family.  Everyone plays (the Matriarch of the family won this year), and how predictably some folks become faux competitive.  Given the event uses decorated eggs reaching their shelf life (about a week in a fridge) it is also uses the brightly decorated eggs without resorting to a Forrest Gump list of recipes (you can eat it plain, deviled, as a salad, on a salad, etc.)

All ages participate…there is nobody self-selecting to stay inside.  Smiles proliferate.  Strategies abound (how to hold the egg, how hard to tap, what the optimal temperature is (some, believing colder is better, insulate the egg with paper), etc.  It’s all good fun.

The keys are a common game everyone plays, and nobody taking it too seriously.  Here is a reasonably inexpensive holiday game.  Gifts are eschewed.

Posting a picture of this event on my Facebook page, a friend Holly shares this is something her family also does, and it has a name, “kipping.”  She believes it originated in Germany.  Whatever it is called, it is a fun family event.  Perhaps one even my Midwestern ancestors would enjoy!

What games/traditions does your family bring forward each year?  What traditions would you gladly pass on, and what ones would you like to add to your event planning?


The Marathon Means Family

The 2014 Boston Marathon meant many things to many people.  It was the first year after the bombing and this year fell on Easter Monday.  To me, the Marathon means family.

When growing up on the North Coast of Cleveland, Ohio, we didn’t have a marathon.  The Cleveland Marathon is 37 years old, and so we were on the verge of moving to New England when it was just starting. 

When first moving to the area, living in Natick and working in Framingham, I didn’t know what to expect when a co-worker said we should “walk over” to the Marathon and greet the runners.  What I saw was a large party, with runners slapping hands with spectators, and little children handing out water and orange slices to the grateful runners.  This was cool…a sporting event where you can literally interact with the athletes.

As the years went by, the Marathon seemed to grow in size as did our family.  We made our own party, setting up at the Natick-Wellesley line, having cookouts and handing out water & oranges to the runners.  A friend also got us handing out petroleum jelly, something some runners are particularly appreciative for when they are in need.

As time went by, the kids went to college and the Marathon became something watched on the news.  Then my daughter started running marathons, and this brought the family back to the course supporting my daughter.

Marathon Monday was a beautiful day.  The “badness” of 2013 was pushed out of everyone’s mind.  Where we used to “camp” at one location, the challenge now is meeting the runner along the way.  After dropping her in Southborough (one of the new security measures – she was then bussed to Hopkinton and went through multiple security screenings), we meet up in Framingham, Wellesley, Newton and then at the finish….five stops overall.

Three generations of family came out to support Erin, and her fiancé joined our gang.  We would park as close as possible, and then walk over to the course.  We tracked location via her phone this year with an app “Find Friends”…which had us running to meet her in Newton after traffic delays.  Innumerable people support via text & social media.  Erin ran as a charity runner for the Mass General Hospital Home Base Program (the funds help veterans and their families heal from the invisible wounds of war) extending the number of people touched by the marathon.  Every donation, message or “like” on a post fed her legs.  In addition to the family on the course, hundreds of people sought updates on her progress and sent supportive messages.

Isn’t this community family?  It sure seemed it on Monday.

Speaking of family, 2014 is the last year for Dick and Rick Hoyt to run the Marathon.  They’ve been running for 37 years…as long as Cleveland has had a marathon.  The father pushes his son 26.2 miles, bringing tears to me every time I see them pursuing the goal together.

Some people describe long distance running as a solitary event.  The days and months leading up to the event are often spent in silent practice.  The Marathon is about running, and about family.

What does your family do on “Marathon Monday?”


What I Want to Pass On

One recent Friday afternoon had me off to visit a friend who owns a garden center and farm.  The store hadn’t opened, and we were able to enjoy some wrap sandwiches in the quiet before the place opened for the season.  He’s a sensitive man, one who tries to stay self-aware while facing the same issues as the rest of us.

I was feeling rather melancholy.  I’m packing for a move to the next town, and rather than feel upbeat I was down.  I need to do a little downsizing, and so every object was up for consideration for toss or donate.  The issue is many objects come with memories….and while the memories don’t get donated the items may.  It was just bittersweet.

After finishing lunch, we started to walk around his greenhouse as he showed me the new store layout and some new products.

On one greenhouse table had a tattered piece of paper with pictures….family pictures.  I asked him what it signified.

He smiled.  “That’s the reason I keep going.” 

Hold on.  He just said something I’ve felt and never said aloud.  With my kids grown and off on their own lives, I sometimes feel my work here is complete.  Look in nature…once the young bucks are of age the old bucks are put out to pasture.  It’s a sad thought, and one I tend to not dwell on as it could take me to a very negative place. 

“I found I doubted my life purpose with my kids grown.  And I put together a collage of the things I want to do with my kids and grandkids.”

He then proceeded to quickly take me through his collage, explaining each picture.

I hopped on the idea.  “There’s a blog post in here.  Would you share your picture?  I can write it up.”  He agreed, and over the next few days had many reasons why the picture wasn’t forthcoming.

Then it struck me.  My friend would do anything for me.  And he is again.  He’s telling me it’s not his story I should write about.  It’s my story.  A-ha! 

So I’ve put together the attached collage for things I want to make sure I pass through the generations.  It’s not all encompassing, just a start at something.  I do believe a bucket list is a decent thing to have, although most are internally focused and arguably selfish.  This is somewhat a bucket list for my family…things I need to make sure I pass on through the generations.

Here are the explanations for my choices:

  • The lighthouse depicts solid, safety, always there, knowledge, and guiding others.  This is where the importance of being honest and ethical live, along with the value of education. 
  • The kids on the inner tube are about family fun times.  Some of the best times my kids and I had are on a lake with some sandwiches.  I once called my kids and asked about their favorite childhood memory, and both said it was time at the lake.  Not some amusement park or expensive destination vacation.  Simple family time at the lake.  It is also a reminder to teach children to swim.
  • The view to the harbor from a restaurant is to remind about enjoying the fruits of your labor.  While this picture was taken from inside a restaurant (75 on Liberty in Boston), the view from outside the window is ‘free.’
  • The Boston Strong runner (my daughter) is a reminder to support your family no matter what the diversity.  She was running the Boston Marathon in 2013, with her parents and family at the finish line.  She’s running again this year as a charity numbered runner.  And I will be there.
  • The lake picture is a reminder of the simple things.  This is a picture of Winnisquam Lake in New Hampshire.  This is the same lake where the inner tube picture was captured. 
  • The treehouse signifies building things with your children, and the neighbors may come over to help.  This picture is of a friend’s treehouse, which put the ones I made for my kids to shame.
  • Little Lea’s picture signifies the future.  Babies are about hope.
  • The chimney making a perfect landing in a car sunroof is a reminder to always find the good things to laugh about in any circumstance.  On this item, no person was hurt, and a MIT graduate class in engineering couldn’t have toppled a chimney with better aim.
  • My mom and dad represent respect for where you came from…my parents are now gone, and the process of packing has helped to unearth some photo gems.
  • The kids playing cards is another reminder of the importance of family fun time.
  • And the saying?  The saying stands on its own.

After putting this together, I was struck by the wisdom of my friend who quietly nudged me to do my own collage (without ever saying so).  I was also surprised by what is NOT on the collage.

There is no mention of work, taxes, etc.  That’s significant, especially where we spend so much time working.   It’s a reminder to me we should work to live, not live to work.

What’s on your collage?