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.
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.