Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bits and Pieces of the Past

I've come into possession of a boxful of papers and photos that belonged to my late Aunt Fay. She was my grandfather's only sibling and the older of the two. Her mother was the caregiver for their grandmother. As a result, an impressive amount of photos for both my Hodge and Mobley lines ended up in her possession. When Aunt Fay died, her daughter took possession. Yesterday I was granted custody and today I have been taking inventory.

Only another genealogist can understand just what it means to suddenly have photos to go with the names in your charts. One new photo can give me a glow that lasts a couple of days. The small mountain of photos I have acquired has me in almost a state of shock. It will take weeks for me to get these all sorted out and scanned, let alone shared with my fellow researchers.

Along with the photos came an assortment of papers and objects that belonged to Aunt Fay and her husband. I opened one box and found a collection of newspaper clippings. Not just the odd obituary that I would quickly snatch and put into the to be scanned pile, but articles and poems that meant enough to my Aunt Fay to clip and save. As I sifted through these little bits of paper, I began to feel like I was invading her privacy. They were only poems and devotional pieces and little how-tos out of Ann Landers or the local question and answer column. But, taken as a whole, they were giving me a clear picture of what kinds of things my Aunt Fay had been interested in in her later years. Articles on aging were plentiful. How to deal with disease was one topic and I wondered if she clipped that after visiting my grandfather, who was battling emphysema.

It got me to thinking. I, too, clip out bits and pieces that mean something to me and most of them are tucked into a blank journal that sits on my bookshelf. The tone of those clippings changes over the years. Obituaries for people with whom I worked once upon a time. Poems. Quotations. The odd photograph. One day, hopefully a long time away, someone will come along after me and pick up that journal and discover the collection of random bits of my past.

Maybe they won't realize that I'm in that little book and will carelessly toss it into the trash. And maybe it will be some genealogist who will respect what that odd assortment really means. Maybe they will sort out the obituaries and photographs like I have done and then wonder what to do with the remainder. Maybe they will appoint themselves the custodian of my past like I have done for my Aunt Fay. Her random bits have found a home with me for now.

Tonight she seems a little closer to me.


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