Monday, April 11, 2011

Documenting the Family Home for Posterity

By Sarah Hill

When my grandpa passed away a couple years following my grandma, my mom and her siblings knew they would have to sell their childhood home. It was inevitable, but still sad. In a way, my mom was mourning the loss of her home along with mourning her parents. Wanting to somehow preserve the physical as well as the memories, my mom embarked upon a little project that became priceless.

Before cleaning out the closets and dividing up those things of sentimental value, my mom went around the house with her camera. She took pictures of everything: the furniture that was so outdated it was almost back in style; the vintage wallpaper; the stuffed animals now balding, the bookcases filled with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Anne Shirley and Louis L'Amour.; the height chart to which we always went, even years past we had quit growing, to see where we had been and where we were in comparison to our cousins; the avocado and citrus trees my grandpa painstakingly cared for; the rose bushes that were my grandma's pride. My mom photographed every corner of that home.

Then she enlisted each of the 27 grandchildren to write about a memory they had of going to my grandparents' home. Some wrote several paragraphs and most wrote a page or two. There were often similar memories, whether it was my grandpa's waffles with a "surprise" ingredient (spoiler: blackberries turn them purple) or having my grandma correct your hand position at the piano or grandpa's whiskers or grandma's ability to beat anyone at Rack-O. The underlying themes of the stories were the feelings we had in that home–something you couldn't photograph.

With the photographs and the stories, my mom compiled them all using an online publisher. She worked tirelessly on it, and the results justify that. Now, each of my siblings and I have a beautiful, professionally-printed hardbound book of pictures and stories about my grandparents' home that I can share with my children and my children's children. This project has inspired me to take pictures and document the smaller things that we often overlook. It took just a few days to put together, but I will cherish it forever–especially the picture of the wallpaper.