My dear dad compiled not a “family album” – but the daddy of family albums. With his own card for pages, his own brass stems for spines, dates and names under each, places and events, and a book-rack “thing” in which they were arranged by year. It was a big book rack.
All of us, when we visited, tended to gravitate to the albums and pick a year. Our own children and my wife saw this chubby little lad with specs looking very young and very odd. With lots of funny brothers and sisters and friends. They saw their very young mum and dad before they were married. And then they saw themselves as wailing/smiling infants each growing older year by year.
Extended family was there, generations back were there. Current life (well – within a few weeks/months of current) was there.
There was boring stuff with grainy “who are they” page turning. There were screams of laughter at remembered funny afternoons. There were raised eyebrows at the fashions of yester-generations and times. There were so many reactions and responses to this one small family history. Time after time. Year after year. Every picture tells a story – and the stories were a very mixed bunch! Sometimes the viewing was muted. Other times it provoked raucous discussion and comment. Sometimes we all fell about laughing as the memories flowed. Sometimes there were tears and sadness at other memories.
My mum and dad their whole marriage also produced and circulated by post – and then by email – a fortnightly family letter. Sharing the doings of their daily life and family. Just because they wanted to. A couple of years ago I was given, by a family friend, a few original pages. They were ordinary moments – somehow gilded with gold as I touched the paper and print from 40+ years ago. My life and my brothers and sisters and mum and dad on that skinny thin paper and fading print.
This weekend someone compared the bible to a family album. He described it as being full of poems, songs, pictures, paintings and moments of daily living. Full of embarrassing moments and fun moments and sad moments. Poetry to be read as poetry should. Songs to be sung or winced over as songs are. Anecdotes to be giggled with or grimaced over. Daily snapshots of daily living to illuminate. Life and family as “life and family” all recorded for “the family”. A family album we return to in different moods, different ways and in different needs. A collection of memories and moments.
The comparison made a lot of sense to me.
Literal, figurative, pictorial, sad, happy, wise and boring. Just as families are. A collective memory. A collective thing. A family thing.
And just as families intertwine and merge, fall out and re-intertwine, re-merge keep emerging and evolving over generations – different yet connected – odd yet familiar – so too this “family album suggestion” touched something deep inside me.
Touched me enough to want to share the moment. Given to me by just another “family member” – a chap called John Bell – with you my brothers and sisters. It’s a family thing.
Greenbelt: and just one hour in a four day weekend. With: John Bell – just another brother …