from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

Inquiries I've received from too-faraway grandparents include audio taping stories, family lore and anecdotes, especially family history. Several commented that talking was easier for them than writing.

In my responses I told about the time and circumstances that I had taped a commentary to our family's photo and document album, and how I went about it.

For almost 40 years my wife and I, and before they left for college, our children, moved about the United States and the world, working and living our lives. We had accumulated a fair number of photos and documents over the years; they were important parts of our family history.

During those active years, family archives were low priority. During periods of relative quiet we reminded ourselves to organize our records, add notes on the reverse sides of photos and important documents, and file them away in albums. As with most families, my wife had all the names, dates, places, and the why and how details catalogued and stored in her mind. We thought we had plenty of time. We did not.

Months after the tragedy, when I was able to focus my thoughts again, one of my many tasks was to gather the cartons, shoeboxes and envelopes of photos and documents. I spread them across every available clear space and tried to make sense of the lot. Many, from past generations, were scenes from the early part of the twentieth century and before. I separated the collection into two groups: Group One: preceding our meeting and marriage, and Group Two: our life together and those who became a part of it.

Group One went into albums as Part A: my wife before we met and her side of the family, and Part B: the same for me and mine. I arranged Group Two (our married life) into collections according to the places where we had resided. The result had many sections.

Organizing the material in each section chronologically, I inserted them into the albums and numbered each photo, document and page. I identified each album sequentially on its spine with a gold foil letter from a packet purchased at a supermarket.

Setting up my tape recorder, I opened the first album. Contemplating the first two facing pages, I recorded what I was going to do in a general introduction, then waded into the narration: photographs, documents, and the flooding memories. Nothing fancy, low key, free association.

The first volumes dealt with people of whom I knew little, so my comments were brief and sketchy. When I reached familiar ground, my remarks were detailed: 'Picture 4 on Page 12 was taken in August of '52 when we lived in beautiful downtown XYZ. Our house is on the right; in the foreground is A, B and C, and coming down the walk is the D family: H, I and J. Soon after the photo was taken, by K, we all drove to AA, visited the city of BB, and had lunch at CC. It was that afternoon that the ZZ incident occurred, and about which I've often talked. For those of you who haven't heard the story, here's what happened....'

And so, far into the night and for days and nights afterward. The task is done, and the archives are ready to pass along to the next generation.

Whenever the subject comes up with others, or when I speak to groups, I urge against putting off this task. We all share in the two great mysteries: mortality and uncertainty. Among the treasures we leave behind are our memories, especially those of family and happy times.

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