[EDITORIAL NOTE: There seems to be some confusion about yesterday's post. I am not curtailing or stopping blogging. The Timeline, one section of the blog, began on 18 October 2004, followed through my life with two photos each weekend until it reached the present yesterday. It will continue now and then only as there are events worth mentioning. Otherwise, I will be blogging as usual. I apologize for being unclear.]
The Timeline was many weeks in the making spread out over two or more years. In fact, I’ve done it twice: once at a photoblog site and repeated here, giving me a chance to add and rearrange pictures, correct some stories and tell a few more in the mix.
It was an extraordinary adventure, plowing through, sorting, scanning photos and keepsakes of a lifetime. Some triggered memories that had not come to me since the original event – a few “oh, wow” moments in that. There are long gaps, too, in the pictorial narrative leaving me to wonder what I no longer recall without a memory trigger – a photograph, a letter, a ribbon saved from a gift, etc.
Earlier this year, I wrote two pieces about collecting our stories for our family descendents. The first, titled Stories For the Infinite Future, lamented how little we know of our ancestors and suggested that with the new technologies available now, we can tell our stories for our children, grandchildren and beyond. A photo timeline like mine is one way to do it and there is no reason to make it public unless you wish to.
In response to that post, a woman emailed that she had led a dull, ordinary life as a wife and mother and she had no stories to tell. Well, that’s just nonsense, isn’t it – as I answered in (Extra)ordinary Lives. Everyone has family stories to tell. There is no such thing as an ordinary life.
Think how much you would appreciate a Timeline such as mine about your grandparents and even your great-grandparents. These days there are videos to be made too. You can write the stories of your life or you can record them in audio so your great-grandchildren can know what your voice sounded like and how you spoke.
Jill Fallon at Legacy Matters writes a lot – as you might suspect from the title of her blog – about legacy. You might want to read some of them and think about getting your stories together for your descendants.
As interesting as our stories will be for future generations, it is equally fruitful to do it for ourselves. It was an extraordinary journey, sitting here at my desk over weeks and months, reviewing the life I’ve had so far. There were moments my eyes filled with tears and others when, alone with the cat, I laughed out loud and felt again the joy of times past.
I understand my life a little better now. I can see its arcs and eras. The turning points. The choices made and those rejected. And I imagined for awhile how my life might have been different if I’d taken another path at those junctures – though each decision feels inevitable from this vantage point.
My Timeline began with the purchase of a scanner with the purpose only to electronically preserve old photos that were mouldering and fading in shoe boxes and envelopes. It unexpectedly turned into the story of my life so far and I have a sense now of having put things in order, of settling some old questions, of knowing myself better. It is an excellent project I recommend to anyone.