I’ve been thinking about family a lot lately. A couple of weeks ago, my older brother set up a Facebook event to invite family members to a reunion he has planned for October. He asked me to dig through my photos and see if I could find a pic of everyone in the immediate family to make a banner for the group. We don’t come from a large family. I have two brothers, and my Dad had just 2 sisters and my Mum, 1 brother. So I was only looking for photos of a handful of people. Still, it proved a little difficult to find decent photos of all of us. Despite my Dad being a keen amateur photographer, we just didn’t have a lot of photos of family. Sure, there were the posed family portraits he took of the three of us kids on the first day of school each year, and those other family or individual shots he would take sometimes when he had time to set up the tripod in the lounge room. There were some holiday snaps taken by one of us of the rest of the family – having a picnic in the bush, at the beach or feeding the birds on our Queensland trip. And some everyday snapshots taken in the front yard (all of us grouped around my brother’s new scooter) or backyard (sitting on the trampoline).
As far as extended family goes, the pickings were slimmer still. We lived in the country and the rest of the family lived in Sydney. Since Dad was a pharmacist, he didn’t take holidays much – most years just the public holidays at Easter and Christmas. So we usually spent school holidays at my grandparents’ in Sydney, travelling there just with Mum in the train. Sometimes our aunt and uncle and cousins would come and we’d hang out in Granddad’s garden and the shed. The shed was a magical place to play as a kid. Granddad was a jack-of-all-trades who could turn his hand to anything, and in his shed he had a full workshop – lathe, workbenches with vises, whetstone, all the tools, nails, nuts, screws and washers in jars screwed into lids that were nailed to the underside of shelves… There was a chook house, with laying boxes, and a chook run the length of the yard, grape vines down the back, a mango tree, and the most incredible vegetable beds, all laid out in neat rows with beans, cabbages, carrots, sunflowers against the fence, a choko vine… We had great times in that garden. But there are precious few photos to record it.
My younger brother recently got engaged and called me one day asking if I had any photos of Granddad’s garden. He’d been telling his fiancée about it and wanted to show her. Sadly, all I could find were a few photos of the cousins on the path near the clothesline, or in front of the hydrangeas near the garage – none showing the shed or the garden. So many of the things we especially remember fondly about Granny and Granddad’s place are completely missing from the photographic record. The other cousins, on Dad’s side, we saw only at Christmas, when we would drive over the river to visit them in Sydney’s south usually on Boxing Day, before heading back home. They had a pool and a boathouse on the water, so it was always exciting to visit them. But again, there are very few photos from those times. I guess Dad wasn’t thinking much about taking photos on his few days of holiday, and just wanted to relax before taking the long drive home again.
It’s not hard to guess where this story is going! Now I’m thinking about my kids, and what photos they’ll have to remember special family times when they’re my age. I’ve always been pretty keen on snapping the everyday life things, but often when we’re with family, I hold back. Partly, it’s because I’ve had negative push-back from some family members (you know the “Oh you’re not taking ANOTHER photo are you?”, or the “Alison doesn’t think it’s happened unless she has a photo to prove it” comments). Partly, it’s because I want to sit back and relax and enjoy time with family. When we visit my in-laws’ I often take the camera into the garden, but hardly ever get photos of the people enjoying the garden! At my Dad’s, we go out taking photos around the town and further afield together, but again not so much of the things my kids might want to remember in years to come. But that is going to change. After my conversations with my brothers, I’m determined not to leave photo deficits for my kids of their important memories.
I found enough photos to make a banner for the family reunion group. And I’m working on putting together a slideshow of family memories for the reunion too. You might see some pages pop up on Facebook in the coming months!
Are there photos you wish you had? What are you doing to ensure your kids and grandkids have those memories recorded for the future? I’d love to hear about them too. We can encourage each other. 🙂