I must confess this blog was inspired by Eaton’s previous one about family albums. She wished that she knew more about those relatives, and I can understand her feelings. The photos are wonderful, but a written history of each of those faces would be priceless.
My family has kept family photos as well as personal journals and written family histories for a long time, it’s something that Mormons are encouraged to do from the time they can write. I remember being encouraged to keep one myself, and to read those of my ancestors, and I must confess, I found it BORING! Those dusty and faded photos failed to capture my imagination.
My father on the other hand was always fascinated with those long dead relatives, going on and on about Great-great-grand Aunt Ethel Booshardt and how she had come to America from Denmark over a hundred years ago. He never misses a chance to talk about her still.
I have realized that the older I get, the larger mortality looms before me, and exactly how those long dead people handled their lives means so much more to me now. Like my great-great-grand mother Rhoda DeLange; how did she handle the death of her two year old son when he drowned in the river just in front of their home? I cannot imagine opening the front door each day and being confronted with the death place of my boy, how did she survive the constant reminder of her loss?
That log cabin still stands, directly behind the general store that she and her husband ran. It is in business to this day, my uncle has refurbished it but was careful to preserve an original wall that bears bullet holes from a gun fight with Indians. The settlers did not always get along well with the original inhabitants of Grass Valley. I have touched those holes in the soft and dusty wood, and they still awe me. My children have touched them too; they are a part of our family history.
Having read Rhoda’s personal journal I learned a lot about her, and myself. She was made of sterner stuff than I ever will be. Standing outside her home and business, the very site where little Joseph drowned; I realize that she dealt with a lot of the same things I do today. She raised a family, six children that survived into adulthood, just like me. She ran a home and had a job as well. And she kept a diary. Where did she find the time? She did more, with fewer resources, than I will ever be able to manage. I stand in awe of her and her life, she is an inspiration.
Now, her pages are precious to me, the very things that I once thought so tedious are now valuable. In the light of these thoughts, keeping a journal is an important thing, not just for yourself, but for your grand and great grand children. They may read your entries and gain from how you handled challenges in your life. Odds are they will be inspired by the incredible things you’ve done but don’t recognize for what they are– amazing.
I keep my family history in a unique way. I don’t keep a journal; I tell myself that my morning pages for the Artist’s Way will suffice, they are full of my comings and goings and personal insights. (I am still debating on whether to include my stories in our history, few are child friendly and let’s face it, not the kind of stuff you want to know your grandmother EVER thought about.)
My scrapbooking is fun and I try to have my children help, their scrawling handwriting is going to be more precious than my adult and legible penmanship in the future. The colored photos and designs are more exciting than the black and white ones our parents had and I pray that none of my grand kids will roll their eyes and wish they were somewhere else when they are dragged out and shared at family reunions. It’s amazing how your perspective changes as you get older, isn’t it?