This is Me in Grade Nine ~ Being a Keeper of Family Memories

The first part of this post's title is a nod to that Bare Naked Ladies song by the same name.

My parents have moved a couple times in the last three years. Over the course of those transitions most of the remaining few tokens of my childhood have come into my possession. The grandchildren still play with my toddler teddy but I'm happy to let mom keep that shaggy furball.

In the most recent bag of goods was my grade nine grad dress.

Grade 9 Graduation, circa 1990

Where I grew up and went to school junior high was grades 7 through 9, after which you "graduated" to high school. Grade nine graduation was a pretty big deal in my world at the time and necessitated a fancy dress, shoes and flowers. What girl doesn't love that?

I had totally forgotten about that dress till my mom passed it on to me. And now that it's in my home I'm having a hard time getting rid of it. (thanks mom!)

My only reason for saving it all those years ago was that maybe one day in the far future (now) my as-of-yet unborn children might find it interesting. Yes, I did think about my unborn children when I was fourteen. Needless to say, the girls have no interest in it. It's an unique style, shall we say, and doesn't have any princess dress-up appeal. My daughter's have little regard for my super shoulder padded sequined white dress.

That dress I wore 20 years ago as a fourteen year old still fits me. I thought if I took a photo of myself in it now I might feel better about getting rid of it. It's just a dress.

But, it's more than just a dress. It holds memories of the end of my childhood and the beginning of becoming a woman. So the dress remains in my little closet... for now.

Grade 12 Graduation, circa 1993

What is it about being a woman and holding onto and preserving memories of childhood?

Damien is not obsessed with this same desire to record, capture and hold on to personal things from the past. I know few men who are. Doesn't mean they don't exist, they just don't exist in my world.

Young Love, circa 1995

When we got married I put together four, yes four, wedding albums - formal portraits, honeymoon photos, casual wedding ceremony photos and an old fashioned wedding book. The type where you write all the gifts you received, save the wedding invite and so on. As you can see, it was hopeless right from the start.

In those early years we took few photos but those we did went into albums with little notes about where we were and what we were doing at the time. The humble beginnings of the yearly family photo album. Then along came a baby, followed in short order by two more. And with the babies came photos. Lots of photos.

Photos for albums, photos to send to grandparents and photos for their baby books, which I diligently completed for all three of my children. What didn't fit in the baby books went into memory boxes - an outfit from their infancy, a favorite toy, birthday cards and "most precious" crafted items from over the years.

After the baby books came binders of artwork, anecdotes and quotes from my toddler and pre-school children while still keeping yearly family photos albums up to date. My children love to pour over their personal binders from "when they were little". They laugh hysterically at their misprouncations and the little sayings of theirs that I recorded.

During these years scrapbooking became all the rage and though I dabbled in that for a while I found it was just more manageable to maintain a yearly album with photos and notes. I "scrapped" the scrapbooking.

Once my kids started homeschool years, after age seven, I switched from personal memory albums for each child (I was still doing yearly family albums of photos) to portfolios. These now double as their yearly school records and memories of their childhood.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I'm letting go of building yearly family photos albums and with that comes great relief but a bit of loss.

Since the blogging bug hit me a couple years ago I simply don't have time to stay on top of photo albums. I've wrestled with this for 2 years now, getting progressively behind in my record keeping.

I am right now working on finishing 2009. Specifically choosing the best photos from the thousands I took last year and getting them developed. Now that I care what my photos look like this is the hardest part, to get them printed the way they look on the screen.

After that I'm done. No more albums. This blog has become where I record our family's history. I have written here for almost five years and many of those early posts are printed and in the yearly photo albums.

Our family photos from the past six years or so (thousands upon thousands since getting my D-SLR camera) are on the computer. Cataloged by date and since January 2010 keyworded. But most importantly backed-up.

And yet... I'm not totally comfortable with this decision, though I see no other solution. The fact is I love to write for FIMBY and the writing and other blog work consumes my "extra" time. Time I used to spend making family photo albums. I've always been a keeper of our family story, only now it's gone digital.

I have some honest questions for you family memory keepers and would love your feedback.

  • How do you keep your family's memories? Are you happy with that solution?
  • Does your family value the work you put into that? Do they ever look at or enjoy the fruits of your labor? (Our yearly photo albums are least looked at, the kids gravitate to their personal memory boxs and binders).
  • What is your long term goal for keeping family memories?
  • How do you mesh the digital with the something-you-can-hold-in-your-hands world?
  • Can you still fit into your grade nine grad dress? (wink)

I'm hoping to gain from your feedback. We do intend to someday publish what we've written on our blogs in some form. Right now my big hang up is cost and getting my photos to look right when printed from the web.

Would love to hear from some of you to see how you manage family memories.

« Friday's Flowers ~ Going Backpacking
Summer School »
  • debbie

    debbie on Aug. 2, 2010, 3 a.m.

    i keep many of my extended family's photos - albums that belonged to my grandmother. i am the only one right now who pours over those, though my dad will on a visit. i have been thinking about this very thing this week, as i dash to print out several dozen photos (of poor quality! ugh! i need to try something other than snapfish) for our portfolio evaluation. since going digital with my photos, i rarely print photos out, though my girls love to sit and look at the albums i did print from their babyhood. i think it's important to have something to hold in your hands, and we also put photos up everywhere in our house - on the fridge, in frames, and at birthday times, carefully taped to the kitchen wall...i know my family loves looking at those, they talk about them all the time. we don't have a printer, so i've never dabbled in printing out blog posts, though that would save me so much time with the portfolio answers for you, just commiseration, i guess! i vote for a little of both - some in the hand, and more for later publishing...and no, my dear, i don't think i could fit into my ninth grade graduation dress, may it rest in peace...!!


  • Ellen

    Ellen on Aug. 2, 2010, 3:11 a.m.

    Oh my goodness. I had a 9th grade graduation dress too, but I don't even remember what it looks like! And I'm certain that I couldn't still fit into it!!

    To answer a few of your questions... I used to feel like a tremendous slacker for not doing photo albums and the like. I finally have come to terms with that and most of the time I don't feel terribly guilty about it. Part of that stems from the fact that my own mom is not the world's most terrific record keeper so I didn't grow up with that, either.

    We keep all old film photos categorized in a photo box by year. The film negatives my dh stores in archival sleeves of the important stuff. For digital photos we do the same as you are doing, filed by date, backed up, but also we try to burn a dvd or cd as well. And for other, larger, items we do memory boxes. It isn't the most organized system, but it sure is fun to dig through and see what you'll find. I've always loved a good treasure hunt :)


  • Adventure-Some Matthew

    Adventure-Some Matthew on Aug. 2, 2010, 5:01 a.m.

    My wife and I have a photo wall where we occasionally trade out photos. We have three words on the wall: Live, Laugh, Love, and we group the photos around them that fit those descriptions. Our photos are digital (except for wedding photos), and we print out selected new ones when the mood strikes and exchange them for ones currently on the wall.

    As for long-term storage of photos, we have not yet come up with a system that we are satisfied with.


  • Jen

    Jen on Aug. 2, 2010, 2:43 p.m.

    I'm in the same boat. I used to scrapbook lots but in the past 2 yrs, I haven't done any scrapbooking. My kids actually like looking at the albums and asking me questions so it makes me want to do more but I just can't find the time. I can't bring myself to go over into digital scrapbooking because I love getting the printed picture and holding it in my hand. I haven't found a good solution.

    On getting pictures printed, I've struggled with that for years until just recently. A friend told me that Costco prints the best pictures. Her husband used to take pics professionally and he always used Costco and several of his friends as well. I was skeptical, because they're prices are very reasonable. I decided to try them out and was beyond impressed with the results. The downside is that you have to buy a membership (the cheapest is $50 for a year), but it is definitely worth it. I needed to order photos and the amount I was saving by going to Costco equaled the membership fee. If there's not a Costco near you, you can also order online and have them shipped. I ordered a 16X20 and it got here in no time. Anyway, just thought I would pass that along because I understand your pain!


  • Pamela

    Pamela on Aug. 2, 2010, 4:39 p.m.

    I'm definitely the sentimental one of the family, but I hold onto "stuff" much more than photos. I love to look at albums, but not organize them or take photos. I have finally let go of the fact that I am not one to chronicle my children's childhoods. I will never be a scrapbooker, or one to journal, and that's okay. I have not put together baby books for either of my children, but each one does have a small photo book (six photos) of them with family members from when they were babies. (Um, I actually just finished the one for my 4-year old yesterday. Yeah, 6 photos took me 4 years). My wedding album took me 3 years (and being unemployed for 6 months) to finish. And it's okay. :-)


  • Pamela

    Pamela on Aug. 2, 2010, 4:47 p.m.

    One more comment -- I definitely cannot fit into anything from 9th grade!!! However, my great aunt wore her prom dress to her 50th High School Reunion! Isn't that fabulous?! She was an awesome lady. :-)


  • Naomi Kilbreth

    Naomi Kilbreth on Aug. 2, 2010, 6:19 p.m.

    "How do you keep your family's memories?" I also have scrapbooked from pre-marriage through 2008. Now I'm working on buying high quality photo albums so I know my photos won't age but I don't have to worry so much about scrapbooking as I don't have time. I keep a journal for each of my kids which I spend about 15 minutes each month on, I save special things in shoe boxes for each of them, do some blogging, and of course back up all our digital photos. I have begun keeping binders full of paper crafts and coloring and writing projects from the kids. Oh yes, we have also made first year videos about an hour long for both Nemo and Daphney (and will for Atlas) which are made of both pictures and video.

    "Are you happy with that solution?" I wish I could do more scrapbooking because I really enjoy it, but I have so many hobbies and commitments that I had to set that aside for a while, though I keep my tools in the closet in case I ever decide to pull them out again. I also have begun investing more money (as I can) into midwifery tools and supplies, which take precedence over scrapbooking materials, and I refuse to buy cheap ones from Walmart! But I am very happy with all the other ways I've managed to keep our memories, and have tried to make them as simple to keep as possible so I don't get in over my head.

    "Does your family value the work you put into that? Do they ever look at or enjoy the fruits of your labor?" The kids love to look through the scrapbooks and watch the movies we've made of them. Once in a while I will look at the albums or watch the movies for sweet memories, but I think it'll be a while before the recent memories become sweet enough that I want to look at the albums more often ;0) And Nemo really enjoys looking through his binder of paper projects.

    "What is your long term goal for keeping family memories?" I hope to keep doing what I'm doing, and eventually get back into scrapbooking. I also look forward to the kids getting more involved in saving these memories as well.

    "How do you mesh the digital with the something-you-can-hold-in-your-hands world?" I think the digital world has saved my sanity in that I don't have to fret about not scrapbooking. I may end up doing a digital scrapbook of Atlas for his first year! But I especially appreciate having an album in my hands and the knowledge that if we ever decide to go without computers I'll have easy access to my visual memories. Not that I see that happening, but I like to be prepared ;0)


  • Kyce

    Kyce on Aug. 2, 2010, 6:23 p.m.

    That dress is Hot. You should totally wear it out on the town, and let all the vintage folks drool. Somehow, what looks so frumpy on a 14 year old is elegant on a woman...


  • Kyce

    Kyce on Aug. 2, 2010, 6:23 p.m.

    That dress is Hot. You should totally wear it out on the town, and let all the vintage folks drool. Somehow, what looks so frumpy on a 14 year old is elegant on a woman...


  • Cindy

    Cindy on Aug. 2, 2010, 10:35 p.m.

    Just a comment on the dress,since I haven't finished your whole blog.... The dress looks great on you.. probably better than in the ninth grade!! And as Kyce said, you should wear it!!


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Aug. 3, 2010, 1:16 a.m.

    Love the dress! Mine was an off white hand me down from my sister which I gave back and haven't seen since. I just might be able to squeeze into it (and since I no longer have it there's no way to prove I'm wrong!)As for photos, I used to have a wall of photos (all in the same color frames)that I would change around from time to time. I was always straightening them so I finally "borrowed" a french door from the shop and hung it on the wall. In the glass sections I set different photo shopped pictures (on photo boards) of the kids. I can change them from time to time. I also keep photo boxes of other photos that the kids love to look through (during the long winter). For school/art and mementoes for each child, I keep binders each year. This is not the most organized system but it works for me.


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 3, 2010, 12:42 p.m.

      LOVE the french door idea!  I use our computer monitor to display photos, like a slideshow while it's "asleep". The kids will sit and watch this and I'll catch it as I walk by.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Aug. 3, 2010, 5:04 a.m.

    I'm trying to think what my 13 year old would look next year in formal fancy clothes. We don't have that tradition over here, and even when I discussed my thesis I just wore one of my nicer dresses.
    I have a hard time getting red of things in general. I rationally know that they are only material things, but they do hold memories and give me pleasure. I'm very bad at keeping our family's memories. Besides baby books, I have a shelf on which I piled photos, artwork and mementoes - thinking I'd organize it all at some stage - and since getting a digital camera I've hardly ever even printed photos. I like your idea of a personal memory box.


  • Annie

    Annie on Aug. 3, 2010, 3:41 p.m.

    Wow. We had 8th grade graduation. I remember my dress was pink...that's about it. And I know it would not fit. I think I weighed 85 pounds. My nickname was Bones. I had a tumultuous childhood, and was orphaned by 10. The photos I have I cherish. I recently found a cousin in Russia and we have been sharing photos like crazy. I am so thankful that today we can just scan and email them. Having reprints made and mailing them would be expensive! Though I am sentimental, I fail at keeping them organized. My daughter and I love to go through our photos, and my son does sometimes. My kids are 7 and 10, and their baby books aren't even complete!


  • nicola@which name?

    nicola@which name? on Aug. 4, 2010, 6:31 a.m.

    Such a lovely post, Renee! I love all you have done to preserve memories. (I love Barenaked Ladies, too!) Good questions. I will answer them all if you haven't read my posts or ROTH article about them. Just tell me to share more if you need me to. I will add that my blog has become a big memory keeper, too. No 9th grade grad dress, but I assume, yes, I could still fit into my 8th grade one if I still had it. Now I feel all sentimental that I do, given my mom sewed it for me! Nicola ps. check out your awesome curly hair! pps. what is with Captcha? this one is 'outfits Bibliographical' good grief.


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 4, 2010, 11:42 a.m.

      Nicola, can you please direct me to those posts. I'd like to re-read them. I don't recall them. I also haven't read much ROTH (took me some time to figure that out) so if you could send me that link also. Thanks!


  • Jamie

    Jamie on Aug. 5, 2010, 12:47 a.m.

    Fantastic! The dress does totally work on you now...more than ever. I have a box of "stuff" that my mom saved from my childhood that follow me around. Every now and then I go through it and think about a mini-me wearing my tiny ballet slippers or playing dress up in my dance team uniforms. Growing up my mom always kept our photos in the bottom drawer of the dresser in her bedroom. I think that has cursed me from printing and displaying my own photos now. Thank goodness my sister is better with these keepsakes. I regularly give her an updated CD of all the pictures I take of her boys and she's the one who prints and frames them. She currently has a floor to ceiling wall crammed full of pictures I've taken of the boys over the years. They're all different sizes and mismatched frames...but it totally works and looks amazing. It's quite the conversation starter in her home.


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 5, 2010, 1:19 a.m.

      I think it photographs better than it actually looks in person as I can't ever see myself wearing it. Too white, too much padding in the shoulders and a little too tight around my 34 year old hips.  But thanks for the compliment. 


  • Jessica

    Jessica on Aug. 5, 2010, 7:32 a.m.

    • How do you keep your family's memories? Are you happy with that solution? I have been keeping photo albums, memory boxes and journals for at least 18 years (journals longer) and our family's memories (as well as the extended family's) are all in there. We have crossed the ocean many times, living on both shores of the Atlantic, for varied periods of time. Some of the kids were born on one side of the ocean and LIVED there long enough to have memories of it; other were born but we moved before they could have their own memories of the place they were born. So, it became very important to THEM to have books and picturs to look through, to recreate the past the family has but they were too little to hold onto. I am a woman of paper, and my children seem to follow through: we like to be able to hold it on our hands, take it with us, feel the little bits of scrapbooking tucked into the albums (notes, napkins from events, hospital bands, etc. ) We find a huge satisfiction AND connection when it's though the paper... My extended family has grown to rely upon our 'keeper's' role. I get calls before major holidays for recipes that had been entrusted to me and can't be dug out on the other side of the ocean... Would I, per chance, have my journals handy? And I do! Or, when my mother-in-law bemoans the fact that she didn't take a picture of this or that while we were all together... she will turn to me to see if I, by any chance, got to take one... and frequently I do!
      • Does your family value the work you put into that? Do they ever look at or enjoy the fruits of your labor? I would say yes, definitely! My children are constantly in their memory boxes and photo albums. I am the only one who gets to rifle through the journals, but I can say I turn to them for their record keeping on behalf of others often enough to justify the space they take (thankfully, not that much!). I feel hugely satisfied by this undertaking, more so than I had expected. I did it originally for myself: I am a sentimental type of person, especially in regards to paper and pictures, but then when the kids came along, with their little possessions too. And although we hadn't planned on moving so frequently, it just so happened, and the pictures, memory boxes, journals create a continuity in our and our children's lives that transcends where we live. My oldest child is a BIG family man and it is important to him that things get into the photo album, to record things for later. I had not envisioned this, but I am glad that my little passion has been so meaningful to him as well!
      • What is your long term goal for keeping family memories? I haven't thought this far ahead yet. So far, I plan on keeping up with what I am doing, and I guess I would like to be able to give the children something of THEIRS to take along when they move out of the home (if they so wish!), to carry along that continuity for their new phase of life... I aso think back on other families I have met, who have family mementos of their immigrant grandparents, etc. and I always felt sad that was not something that came down to me (our own families didn't do that much at all). I think it will be nice if I happen to have grandchildren or great grandchildren who wish to have that kind of conection through pictures: they will be satisfied by the things I am putting together now! In any event, even if they don't care, I am doing it for my own pleasure so there is no pressure: it's more of an added benefit....But for now, I am just busy keeping on top of things if I can!
      • How do you mesh the digital with the something-you-can-hold-in-your-hands world? The digital has created a lot of freedom: snap away, don't worry about THE perfect one shot... Take a bunch and delete what is unworthy. It has made life a lot easier for me, as the pictures on a roll did tend to create a bit of anxiety: 'we only have this one chance to take this one photo, then we are off to another country, and what if the photo is absolutely horrid?' That's all we have to go on! In fact, some of my first photo albums DO contain some horrid pictures, as they were all we had to document a certain period or event... Digital has made incorporating BEAUTY into record keeping a lot easier!!!!! But as I said, we are people of paper, so pictures that don't get printed sort of don't exist for us... Oh, one other HUGE benefit of digital: the simplification of the safekeeping! No more special envelopes for negatives, no more handling in the dark (we live in a SUPER sunny/glary place, with lots of humidity) in special cases, etc. etc. I find the safekeeping much easier thanks to the digital age!
      • Can you still fit into your grade nine grad dress? (wink) Being 7 months pregnant at the moment, I HIGHLY doubt it... But pre-pregnancy, probably. I always joke that the key to keeping a figure after having had 4 kids (we'll see if number 5 undoes me!) is to get married a bit on the chubby side, as I weigh less after 4 kids than when I got married (I wasn't huge then either, just rounder: I didn't go on a pre-nuptial diet as many of my friends did and it turned out to have benefits I had not expected!!!)

    • renee

      renee on Aug. 5, 2010, 12:44 p.m.

      Jessica, Thank you for this reply! I really enjoyed reading it. You are a real family memory keeper and it's so neat how that is your role both in your personal and extended family.

      I love how your family appreciates and values the work you do. My own children are always telling me "put this in the memory binder mom". And items that they have truly outgrown but have meant a lot to them are put in the memory bin. That way they feel they can still hold onto it but it doesn't take up their toy or clothing space.

      I too plan to give my children things of theirs when they leave. In fact I hope they'll take them because we plan to downsize and travel/adventure a lot (to see them of course). 

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts Jessica - I'm inspired and encouraged.


  • Rachel

    Rachel on Aug. 6, 2010, 8:23 p.m.

    I had a hard time finishing this post because I kept laughing about how YOU TRIED THAT DRESS ON!!!

    I don't scrapbook and I rarely print photos. I do have a baby book for my first child that she loves to look at. I hope to put together a baby book for my second child before he's old enough to know that he doesn't have one yet. I Will do that!

    We mostly look at photos on the computer, so I try to spend time deleting the ones that aren't so great, so it's nice to look through them. I know I should print at least a few.

    I am so thankful all the time that my mom doesn't scrapbook. I love certain photos from my childhood, but I wouldn't want too many albums from my own life. The photos that I really love are from right now and of my children.

    I keep records of funny things they say and do. It's on my computer, but hope to put it on paper at some point. I do love journals more than formal albums.


  • Rana

    Rana on Aug. 7, 2010, 3:44 a.m.

    I scrapbooked our first couple of years of marriage. Then the twins came and I really got into it. I have always loved taking pictures and I have tons of photo albums of me and family and friends since I was a kid. Now that I have been blogging I love keeping our memories that way. I've been scouting around at a couple of websites that let you make your blog into a book. I think that's what I'm going to do for now. I need to back up my photos too.

    Ever since my mom died I have inherited all of her photos and memory books. So I just kind of picked up where she left off. It's great to look back at photos and see the history of our family.

    Also there is no way I would ever fit into anything of mine from 9th grade. I'm impressed Renee. You look good in that dress.


  • Nicole aka Gidget

    Nicole aka Gidget on Aug. 30, 2010, 3 a.m.

    I'm transitioning to give up on scrapbooking too and it it sad for me. I was an album-a-year girl too, and am just way too backed up now. I'm hoping to continue with some digital, simplified version, incorporating my family blog posts in too. We'll see!


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.