I sometimes wonder if the pictures I take and the scrapbooks I keep will ever mean anything to my children. Am I making too many books? Do we have too many photos? What will all these mean to my children and their children when I am no longer here? Will this be a burden instead of a gift?
These questions were answered recently as I was reminded of the power of pictures and the immense treasure they can be. When I was a young child, my parents became amateur photographers and Super 8 film makers. Way before the Sony “Handicam” and the digital era, my father was an avid photographer and filmmaker. He invested in the best equipment on the market at the time: a Minolta 35mm camera and a Super 8mm filming camera, which was his favourite toy! Both my parents made a point of capturing their lives, our lives, as often as possible (and as much as their budgets permitted). Back in the mid-sixties to late seventies, these hobbies were quite expensive. Slides were the “in” thing and much cheaper to develop. However, slides were a bit of a pain to view and share. Every so often, my father would pull out the equipment for a family evening of photo and film viewing. It was a big production: he would set-up his big screen, slide projector and film projector and pull out boxes and boxes of memories. We would all gather around the screen and watch for hours on end as he narrated each shot, each strip of film. The Super 8mm films had no sound but it didn’t matter at all, we loved watching everyone come to life on the screen. Those viewing nights were so much fun and no one minded hearing the same stories told over and over again. But to be honest, we never managed to see everything, and many memories never made it out of the boxes…
By the 90s, as the equipment aged and broke, the picture viewing evening eventually died off. The boxes stayed in storage and other than being mentioned from time to time, they never saw the light of a projector again. I always knew I wanted to rescue the slides and the old films but didn’t really know how to go about it. In the early 2000s, my dad managed to transfer all the Super 8 films to CDs but this type of media also became obsolete: our history was held hostage in derelict technology! And then came along conversion services by Forever™. At last, I had a solution!!! And a big, big project ahead of me. It took me a while to get the slides organized and to save the money necessary to convert hundreds of slides. In total, my father had accumulated over 3500 slides (a substantial number for that era). Thankfully, each slide had been lovingly catalogued and stored in slide holding boxes. There were surprisingly well preserved. I painstakingly looked at each one (without a light box), selecting those that seemed most pertinent to my life’s history. I was able to retrieve a little over 800 slides and finally, in the winter of 2019, I sent a box of some of my most precious possessions to Forever™ conversion services. I had no duplicates and no negatives so sending this box away took a huge leap of faith. I can’t tell you how excited I was the day I received the USB key and all my slides back. I couldn’t wait to see the slides in their new digital format. I laughed and wept as I rekindled with these old photos, discovering some I never even knew existed! In that moment, I realized my role as family historian had tremendous value.
From 1969 to 1972, we lived in Europe thanks to a position my father accepted as a civilian high school teacher on the Canadian Army Base in Lahr Germany. During those three years, we travelled a lot on weekends and summer vacation. My parents bought a Volkswagen camper which permitted us to explore so many European countries. All the pictures taken during those three years were in slide format so needless to say, I was thrilled to finally reconnect with all those beautiful memories. So many scenes came back to life! I was transported back in time with nearly every shot, many eliciting moments that had been stored so far away in my head. Some pictures even triggered other senses as I could “feel” myself stepping back in specific places. Each image evoked so many mental movies, it was remarkable how clearly the stories came to life. I came across a bunch of photos taken in 1971, in a small medieval town in the south of France called Aigues-Mortes. Of the many places we visited back then, this little town was one of my favourites. So much so that I had often dreamed of bringing my family there one day. My wish came through in 2015 when we travelled to the South of France with my sons, then 19 and 21, my husband, my Dad and my stepmom to visit my stepsister and her family who live in Montpellier. Aigues-Mortes was a definite must on our itinerary! I rediscovered this charming old town and loved it as much as the first time. So, you can easily imagine my surprise and giddiness when I discovered I had pictures of my dad, my sister and I taken in those exact same spots 44 years earlier! Seeing these pictures side by side was beyond amazing! I couldn’t think of a better way to connect these two distinct, yet similar moments in time, than by creating a special scrapbook page. I can’t wait to give my father a copy of this page!
As for the rest of the converted slides, the project of sorting, documenting, showcasing in special albums and storing in my Forever™ account is well underway! I still must convert those CDs; that’s my next big project. I suspect once these are delivered, I will weep and laugh all over again! Oh, and I confess: I no longer believe my photos will ever become a burden! I truly believe I am creating an amazing legacy for many generations to come.