I just returned from a reunion with Kathy’s family, the Snyder’s. They rented a really big house in Northwest Georgia (close to Chattanooga, Tennessee). Once I got there it was great seeing everyone and relaxing. But vacations are a lot of work (at least for someone who forgets how to vacation).
I am starting to get busier with my design work so there was a lot of last-minute work to finish up. Arrangements had to be made for Marty to go to his dog-sitter, Joanne. And we knew in advance that the rental was not going to have any wi-fi. In reality, I was one of the few people there with a few bars of cell phone service.
I wanted to return some things to Kathy’s family too. I had dreaded going through boxes of memories, but it was okay. Kathy had been the keeper of her family’s photo collection. And since I am the archivist for the Lehndorff family, there are boxes and boxes and boxes of photos at my house. It was a forced opportunity to go through a life’s worth of clutter and memories in the bedrooms.
Kathy and I ended up with her family photos back in the 80s. I thought it would be nice if we (meaning me) made copies of some of the family photos and give Kathy’s siblings a finished photo album. That was back in the days of copy negatives and darkroom printing. It was a lot of work and I was not the best darkroom technician especially doing the work in the bathroom in Boulder and Denver. It developed into a project if you pardon the pun.
That was then. Now everyone wants digital jpg copies to post on Facebook Throwback Thursdays. Since I’m not sure how often I will see them all together, I figured a digital archive for them. So I started photographing as many of them as I could with my camera. I didn’t scan them, which would have been the high-quality way. And I didn’t get all fancy with a tripod or fancy lights or a camera stand.
I literally held the snapshots or albums in front of my Nikon and fired away. Sometimes there was glare and smudges that got preserved. It took a couple of months, off and on, to do what I did. I attempted to at least rotate and crop them a little and clean them up some on the computer.
Then I tried to organize them somehow. I had no idea who most of the people were. Heck, I don’t even know who some of the people in my family archive are. My fallback was to do it by general decades. The sepia black and whites went into a folder called the 40s and earlier. That was when Kathy’s parents got married and Kathy was born in 1947. I also took a few photos of Kathy’s baby book. At birth “Kathy looks like a chicken.” was one inscription.
I could guess approximately when some photos were taken based on the cars in them and the way they were printed. Snapshots from the 70s and 80s looked like Instagram-filtered photos and were often printed on textured paper with rounded corners. Then there were a few ones of our nieces and nephews. It was good for me because as I went through the Lohse family (Kathy’s mom) I could name some of the uncles and aunts and cousins that had Huntington’s later in life.
Eventually, everyone will have a DVD with all the photos and photos of marriage and birth certificates. I had wanted to identify everyone in the photos but I’m leaving that to them. My job is done. Finding the photos to return them meant I had to dig into the attic and boxes Kathy had marked memories.
There were also boxes with memories of things she probably wished she never had. I even found a photo of an old boyfriend (I knew about him. It was while we were ‘still friends’. Cleaning the attic was one of those things I knew I was going to have to do…. before I die. So it was good to start the process now.