Texas has had record-breaking triple-digit heat for weeks this summer. Too hot to do anything outside, I looked for something to occupy my time and hit upon re-doing our family photo albums. I started by ordering four magnetic-page photo albums from Amazon and bought a small label maker. Taking over one end of the kitchen table, I moved a lamp there for better lighting and assembled tape, scissors, Post-it notes for temporary labels and pens.
I moved the old albums from my office and grabbed a few envelopes of other photos from the file cabinet near my desk. I decided to start with my own personal history, beginning with my birth and ending just before Andy and I became engaged. One thing that has always been precious to me was a telegram announcing my birth that my dad sent his brother Jim, who was serving with the Army in Germany during World War II, so that went into the first album along with my birth certificate. My grandfather and uncle were in the photography business, so there were lots of photos of baby me to sort through, including many duplicates. Some of the older photos had been mounted on cardboard, so it took a few moments in the microwave to loosen the glue and peel away the photo. I trimmed many of them to better fit the pages as I went along. Realizing what lay ahead, I ordered four more albums from Amazon. I kept a trash bag by my side on the floor and tossed old albums as I removed photos, as well as trimmings, duplicates, photos that were no longer meaningful and out-of-focus shots.
Then I delved into the Baehren family history. My Aunt Jean (now 93) had given me a large envelope of family photos years before and I arranged those in chronological order and put them in an album. Then I tackled Andy's family history. Once again, I had a fat envelope of photos dating back to the days before his parents married in Poland. I was helped by some research his niece Monique had done about the family, including photos of places they had lived.
Our wedding album from 1969 had fallen apart, so I removed all the photos, discarding a few that were not especially meaningful and trimming the edges so I could get two on a page. There were a few photos from our early days in Denver, but then it was onto photos of our three kids, who arrived from 1974 to 1977. These included baby pictures, photos of Christmas, Easter and Halloween, trips to the family cottage at Clear Lake, Indiana and to Toledo, where my parents lived. As the kids got older, there were many shots of sports, school photos. vacations, and family events.
I had photos of most of the places we had lived during out 53-year marriage and others from family parties, like my parent's 50th wedding anniversary and my mom's 80th birthday parties. Then I started on photos of our grandchildren. As times changed, most of my photos became digital and I may print some of my favorites out to include. When the albums were mostly complete, I printed out labels to identify people and places that may not be known to people looking at these in the future.
Throughout this project, which has taken many weeks, I found myself wishing I could still talk to some of the people in the photos to ask them questions about their lives. One thing I still need to do it are timelines for the older albums, including information my brother David has entered into Ancestry.com. I also had some letters from my dad (who was a great letter writer) with a lot of family history, which was also helpful. I'm really doing this project for our children and grandchildren, so that they can someday appreciate the lives of those who came before.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.