I was floored (in a good way!) this morning.

I was driving to an appointment and I heard a man on the radio saying all the things I believe about the joint fragility and great meaning held within family photos.

He talked about how we lose much our family history after 3 generations, or after the living family members no longer recognize people in the pictures.

He talked about how in a disaster like a fire, or flood, the thing we regret losing the most is not our furniture, or even our home, but our family pictures.

And finally he talked about how tenuous our hold is, as a people, on our digital pictures. How the images we hold onto over time are the ones that exist in the physical world, and how all the pictures we take and keep digitally are likely to evaporate with time, as if they never existed in the first place.

What a scary thought!

He collects vintage snapshots, and one of the observations he made through this process is that often old photos have no personal context. Many of the images he collects have people in them, but there is no way to know who they are. He groups his collection in abstract ways, like indicators of social norms or times.

He suggested that you write the name of the people on the back of every photo you print out. Not a bad idea… although once you’ve lost context for your family that far back names don’t actually add a whole lot of meaning to the image.

What I want to know is who was this person? How did they speak? What did they love? What did they contribute to the world, and to the family?

This is why I love family story books.

And this is why I encourage you to write in them. I encourage you to choose words that are true, and detailed, and from the heart. Because in 4 generations, after you are gone, your distant relatives will be able to connect with you in this small, beautiful, honest way.

And in the meantime, your kids (and even your partner) will connect more deeply with you, too. Because what is life if it isn’t a collections of stories and relationships? And the stories we know the best are the ones we grow up reading over and over again.

Give your family this gift–one way or another.

I just got back from the thrift shop where I rescued a number of picture frames with the intention of printing my favorite snapshots and hanging them on the wall.

What are the snapshots you remember from your life? Find them and make sure they have a place in history.

And listen to the 6-minute podcast to hear these quirky stories and wise observations directly from the source!

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