Learning From the Past; Preserving the Future

img_3618Over the past month, our family has spent a lot of time looking at pictures. My father-in-law, once an avid traveler and adventurer, now finds pleasure in perusing old family photo albums. Seeing all of the photos from the past, while at the same time putting together our family’s 2017 album, leads me to wonder about all of the pictures that people take today. I hear countless people talk about the thousands of photos on their phones. I cringe at the tales of those who have lost thousands of photos because of a phone failure. I recall all of the pictures my grandfather took throughout his life, so meticulously placed in albums and labeled with tender loving care. And I think about the albums I have put together every year since 1992 that my children still love to pull out and go through, laughing at their childhood antics and fondly recalling those who are no longer with us. How will it be for future generations when there are no longer any photos to see, no albums to leaf through, no tangible proof that any of us were here? I get that people are taking lots of pictures, but what do they do with those photos? Where do those memories go?

IMG_3023I wonder how many people have never created a photo album or even own printed photos, other than a few framed prints around their house. We all know people who have boxes of developed but undocumented photos stashed away somewhere or laptops filled with pictures with no idea as to whom or what are in them. We live in a world where most pictures depict someone’s face, with their forehead cut off or their tongue sticking out, that is here one instant and self-destructs the next.

My oldest daughter disagrees with me about this being a problem. She says that her generation takes more photos than any other, and they print and enjoy looking at them with their friends. She believes that the digital age has allowed the taking of photos to become more popular than ever. But that isn’t my point. The Professional Photographers Association claims that 42% of people no longer print photos. Some claim that this isn’t an issue because digital drives can be handed down from generation to generation. Yep, those old floppy disks full of pictures sure are valuable today, aren’t they? Or those flash drives that hold all of your family memories? How will those be accessed in twenty years? No problem, you say, because Instagram and Facebook hold a treasure-trove of photographic memories. Not true, my dear, not true. I noticed recently that even those photos only date back a few years. Facebook is deleting your memories, and I bet you didn’t even know it. Go ahead, check for yourself. All those pictures you shared several years ago are gone.

Things looks pretty dim for future generations when it comes to remembering what great-grandma looked like or how much someone resembles his grandfather.

Cameras are being sold at record low numbers. Everyone depends upon their phones for pictures, but once a digital image disappears, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. I recently read Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, a novel about a photographer who specializes in recovering newly discovered film from years gone by. Working with anthropologists, historians, and families, she’s able to identify POWs, MIAs, and other people whose pictures have survived the years, locked inside a roll of film in a forgotten camera. Will there come a time when there are no cameras, no never-before-seen film or even SD cards to help unlock secrets of the past? Adding to the problem is that most people who do print photos use cheap printers with ink that fades and have no idea how to actually go about properly preserving photos.

12-7-28Judging by what I’m seeing and hearing, Ancestry.com is exploding with people looking for answers to their past. DNA tests are becoming commonplace among people from ages twenty to fifty. We are yearning for a connection to the past, a window to tell us who we are and from where we came. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we no longer have as many photographs to help us find that missing link. No more photos of common things like preparing a meal or families enjoying a simple day at home. All photos are either staged for Instagram perfection or are filtered before being dispersed to cyberspace for a quick laugh and instant destruction.

IMG_9697

Gram looking outI hope I’m wrong and that younger generations do realize what a gift they have with all of this modern technology and and will use it in a way that allows them to pass down cherished images to their children and grandchildren. I hope more people will begin taking and saving photos in some way or another instead of continuing down the road of only taking selfies that have no meaning and no lasting significance. I hope my daughter is right and that her generation of twenty-somethings are saving their photos in a way that will let their children and grandchildren see them. I hope everyone strives to preserve pictures of the past and of those important people who should never be forgotten but will not show up in any history book. Otherwise we are not only losing the Greatest Generation but our link to all generations since then.

What I was writing about this time last year:  I Want to Be a Princess

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

A Treasury of Memories

img_3610I have spent the last few days working on digitizing our family photo albums.  It’s a tedious task but one done with love.  For the first fifteen years of my marriage, I meticulously recorded every event in our lives by hand–cutting, pasting, and decorating page by page until each scrapbook was perfect.  By 2009, I had graduated to a digital camera and started creating all of my albums on my computer.  It’s a mandatory family tradition that we all five gather, just after New Year’s, to “watch” the album on our big screen TV to critique, correct, and finalize the year of memories before I send the pages away to be made into a book.  

downloadsAs I’m going through each non-digital album, scanning in page after page, I’m reliving every little moment of the lives of my girls thus far (though to be honest, I have so many albums with so many memories, that I haven’t even begun to scan the “Katie and Morgan years”).  It’s hard to believe that Rebecca, who turned twenty-one this past Sunday, was ever so small. Everything was recorded from her birth to her first laugh, her first crawl, and her first best friend.

downloads1

Every year, my scrapbooks grew larger as I filled the pages with childhood milestones, family get-togethers, vacations, and, later, school memories.  It is not an exaggeration to say that our albums fill an entire bookcase in our house.  And the best part is that the girls really do love pulling them out and looking through them.  Katie can see her Baptism, the first time she held her own bottle, the first time she lifted her head, ate spaghetti, and laughed at our beloved Granny.

downloads2Morgan’s early pictures from her birth to her first steps and first Halloween reveal her orneriness and her deep, genuine love for her best friend and big sister, Katie.  As I look back at all of the fun times and cherished memories, I think of their closeness, and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I’ve never known two sisters who are closer than they are. Not that Rebecca isn’t greatly loved by her sisters, but a deep, unwavering bond exists between Morgan and Katie that I pray will always remain, and that is where the sadness comes in.  

rebeccas-21st-birthdayFor you see, our albums are changing as the years go by.  There are fewer photos of Rebecca as she leads a life away from home, and next year, my Katie will leave on her own new adventure.  The Schisler Family Album for 2017 will portray senior portraits, law school and college acceptances, two graduations, and a world that consists of Mom, Dad, and Morgan, without Rebecca or Katie. It’s an unfamiliar landscape that is sure to bring ups and downs, highs and lows, and the promise of change around every corner.  

 

At least I know one thing for sure.  No matter where my children go, I will always have them tucked safely away inside my heart and on my bookshelf.  

img_3618

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017)

 

Family Portraits

DSC_1825I know that when it comes to taking pictures, I drive my family crazy. Countless times I have heard the phrase, “Another picture?” or “Haven’t we taken enough?” or “Can I go now?” They can keep complaining. It doesn’t phase me. I will continue to take their pictures, their friends’ pictures, our pets’ pictures, our family pictures, our vacation pictures, our holiday pictures, and any other photos I feel like DSC06333taking because it all boils down to one thing – this event, this memory, this small moment in time will only happen once and only last for an instant, and I want to remember it forever.

It is the norm today for people to snap all kinds of pictures (and let’s admit – they’re mostly selfies) with their phones and leave them there for all eternity, or until their phone dies or breaks, and then the all too familiar cry can be heard “Oh no! All of my pictures are gone!” We’ve all experienced that dreadful moment when we realize that special memory, which we were lucky enough to capture and freeze, has disappeared forever. For me, it was an entire CD with photos from the last Mother’s Day with my grandmother before her stroke. For months, I searched for that CD until I gave up, assuming it was gone forever. Then, a few years later, my grandmother left us for a better place, and I was desperate to find that CD. For those who don’t believe in the power of prayer or the intercession of the saints, let me assure you, I am a true believer. After resuming my search, all the time praying to St. Anthony, I found the CD – in our silverware drawer in the kitchen. The same drawer I open up at least six times a day. It was simply lying in the drawer next to the silverware. Where had it been for the previous three years? I have no idea. 

Mother's Day 1The point is, those pictures meant so much to me because they were all I had left from that day – a day that, at the time, seemed totally unimportant, just another Mother’s Day – but turned out to be the last day that most of our family saw my grandmother the way we would all want to remember her. My girls are much older now, but they remain little in that photo, snuggled next to Granny on the couch, and my Gram remains the woman I loved and looked up to.

This past Saturday, we celebrated Ken’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Leading up to the party, my children, Ken’s sister, and I photo-8spent a lot of time combing through old photo albums and digital photographs. We pulled together almost 200 pictures of my in-laws from the last 50 years – including photos from their high school prom, their wedding, the births of their children, the births of their grandchildren, and every important, and not so important, event in between. The slideshow that ran throughout the night told a story of 50 years of love and happiness, a story brought to life in pictures. 

DSC07592That night, we took even more pictures. The party came and went; some of those faces we’ll see again, and some we won’t, but everyone will live on in our minds and hearts and in those photographs. Our family will always be together in the family photo we took that night just as my family will always be together in the photos we took with my parents on Thanksgiving. And you can bet that I will take many, many more photos on Christmas. It’s what I do, and someday my complaining children will thank me. After all, there will come a time when they will look at one of our family portraits and think “That’s just the way I remember my Mom.” And though it sounds sad, it’s not. Those smiling faces will remind them of times when we were all together, and they will remember just how happy we were in that frozen moment of time.