As a little girl, I remember spending the summers on my great-grandmother’s farm with my cousin, who’s only five months older than me.
Most of our childhood was spent far, far away from each other because of her dad’s career in the oil business. His job had him living all around the world, in fancy places like France, Africa, and Switzerland.
But we would spend much of our summers together there on my great-grandma’s farm in southern Oklahoma, just right on the other side of the Red River from my childhood town.
We would play outside in the early mornings, when there was still dew on the grass. We would walk out to the hen house and collect eggs, and walk down the lonely red dirt road, telling each other spooky stories about what might be hiding in those tall rows of corn on either side of the road.
But once late morning started coming around, the heat would be too much for us, so we’d spend the rest of the day inside in front of the window unit, looking through Sears catalogs and old photo albums.
We loved turning through the thick, sticky pages of those old yellowed albums, at the pictures of us when we were fat babies, and pictures of our parents when they were kids.
If we were really lucky, my great-grandma - we called her Mama - would sit with us and tell us stories about the people in the pictures.
We would learn about what she was like as a little girl when she was our age.
She would tell us about her brothers and sisters - some we had never met because they’d moved away when they were younger, and passed on before we were ever born.
We learned so much about our family during those sweet summertime afternoons with picture albums across our laps.
But now, with the bulk of our photos captured on our phones and digital cameras - most of them never seen after they’re taken, much less printed - our kids won’t have the experience of pouring through old family photos from generations before them.
And they’re not just missing out on the experience of seeing those old family photos.
Our kids are missing out on the experience of seeing the warm nostalgia cross the face of their mother or grandmother or great-grandmother as she goes through the photographs.
There’s something magical about sharing those memories and first-hand accounts of life “back in the day.”
Sitting around a phone and swiping through photos with the kids and grandkids is just not something that happens.
I’ve said it before that the actual taking of pictures is a lot more convenient than it used to be, and I love that.
But - as much as technology has us more “connected” than ever - we’ve actually never been less connected.
We know far more about our family than our kids will ever know about theirs.
I do realize that carving out a space in your home to store photos isn’t appealing. But you don’t have to have bookcases filled with thick, heavy photo albums.
I’m suggesting that, at a minimum, you make a few small albums with pictures of your child growing up, and pictures of his immediate and not-so-immediate family members.
And don’t include only the pictures.
Include notes with each photo, telling who is pictured, an approximate date, and comments about what was going on in the picture.
If you want to really give your child the gift of connection, you can include more detailed journaling to describe more of the story behind each picture. Tell not just about that barbecue, but what your grandfather loved most about family barbecues.
Tell not just about going to the lake every fourth of July, but what some of the other traditions were for that annual trip.
Give your kids a chance to connect to their family, even (especially?) those who are no longer here.
Some easy ideas to get you started:
Send your photos to Shutterfly, have them printed and shipped directly to your door, then stick them in a photo album.
Or, for a little more money, buy a photo book from Shutterfly. You can even have them auto-populate the pictures you upload, then you can go in and move stuff around to get it the way you like it.
It’s super easy.
Whatever you do, don’t put it off. Pull this together now - over the summer is a perfect time.