#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Preservation

I’m not doing a very good job of preservation lately. I have stacks of photos and photo albums that my mother has handed over to me to be scanned. Somehow, when I sit down at the computer I end up doing anything but scanning, these days.

I also have a gift card for a scanning company for the dozen-or-so boxes of slides at my mom’s house. The gift card – and a digital recorder – were purchased right before the pandemic broke out. I’m now vaccinated, but my mother is not, so I’ve been trying to limit the time I spend around her.

When I finally am able to sit down with her and pull out that digital recorder, I know she’s going to freak and say that she “can’t find her words.” And it’s true, her memory slips more and more these days. I don’t think she’s developing dementia. I think when you have 84 years of memories, it’s harder for your brain to sift through them all quickly. Still, I want to capture those memories.

Sometimes when I’m on the phone with her, I’ll open a blank document and start typing notes of what she tells me about. It’s at least something. It’s easy, though, to get 30 minutes into a conversation and realize that I should have been taking notes.

Here’s an example of the notes I took one day:

I didn’t worry about capitalization (I went back and added the caps for the bank name later) or punctuation. I could flesh this out a little later. I could look online for pictures of a stuffed eagle at Florida National Bank in Pensacola. It’s also a reminder to ask my mom about some of the other “strange animals” they had around when she was growing up. At least I have these few notes as a recorded memory.

Photo of the curb market where the eagle would have been kept. That's my mam-ma with my uncles Aldis (standing) and Howitt (on the bench) with a dog whose name my mother didn't remember. In the background are bunches of bananas can be seen hanging from the rafters.
This is the curb market where the eagle would have been kept. That’s my mam-ma with my uncles Aldis (standing) and Howitt (on the bench) with a dog whose name my mother didn’t remember. See the bananas hanging from the rafters?

Pap-pa was my mother’s dad, Hoyt Cook. He had intentions of preserving some of his memories. My mom found a spiral notebook that had a list of one-line triggers written, almost as an index. They were the stories he wanted to write down for posterity, but he never did. All we have is that list. In some cases, my mom thinks she knows which story he was thinking of. She’ll never remember it exactly the way he would have, of course. In other cases, she’s not sure what his cryptic words meant.

When I was little, great Aunt Nell Wise Cook gave me a diary. I never got in the habit of writing in it every day, but I have occasional notes in there. It was a 5-year diary, so each date had just a little space for each of the five years. I have looked back at it, and in some cases, I know exactly what I was writing about, and in other cases, I have no idea!

It’s just as important to preserve our own thoughts and experiences as it is to record the memories of the older generation. Someday, our writings will be a precious glimpse back at the past.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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7 Responses to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Preservation

  1. Eilene Lyon says:

    Every little bit saved is precious! I know that the scanning projects can seem overwhelming. Even if you just schedule a few hours each week, it will eventually get done.

  2. I also have boxes upon boxes of family photographs to digitize. It all seems so very daunting. My plan is to buy a flat bed photo scanner and get to work on it over the winter.

    • Taminar says:

      We have one of those all-in-one laser printer/scanners, and then I talked my mom into buying a more portable flatbed scanner. It’s an Epson brand and came with frames to use for scanning slides (although we just have too many to do only four at a time), and the lid is designed to fit comfortably over books or other thick items. The purpose for this scanner was to take along visiting. I took it to my great-grandmother’s old church and scanned the pages in their scrapbook relevant to my family, took to my mother-in-law’s to scan her photos, took to my mom’s cousin’s house and scanned while they visited.

  3. Pat Lowe says:

    You are dong a better job than most, Auriette. I have been scanning lots of photos too. I am trying to put them all in a dropbox file organized roughly by person/group. Then when all my children are here fir our 50th anniversary at Christmas/New Years, I will give them the photos to take home, also a thumb drive with the whole collection. Also putting them on each person’s familysearch individual page in memories. That takes a lot of tine. Scanning is fast, but the rest is slow.
    Insure hope you can come to our 50th party which will be outside and more like a casual family reunion. I think I posted it to both Allison & Cook fb pages.

    • Taminar says:

      I am enjoying seeing the photos you share in the family Facebook groups. I know what you mean about the uploading here and there taking time. I save everything as the largest possible tif file, which is great for archiving, but then you have to save another copy as a JPG before using online, and sometimes the site won’t take it unless it’s made smaller.

      I would sure love to attend the anniversary/reunion, but I worry about the travel in this day and age. 😦

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