I seem to have become the keeper of the family bibles.
That thought hit me this morning. After a morning that included a breakfast meeting, then a few hours frantically designing and creating a report for a client, I took some time off and started cleaning out a bookshelf to make more room for the woman I love and her books.
A fair number of those were my daughter’s books, now all packed away for when she moves into her new apartment (soon). A few were mine – mostly on art and painting, now ensconced in my studio where they belong. And a small stack is packed and ready to give away.
The last two books were two large bibles. One was my grandmother’s (my Dad’s mom) and one was my mother’s. I already have my other grandmother’s bible (that’s the one in the picture) which has been sitting on my bedside table since she died fifteen years or so ago.
Normally, I might have just moved the family bibles to a new space. But for some reason, I went through them. They were full of the things people used to leave in their bibles – programs from graduations, pictures, newspaper articles. Some of them had to do with me and my sisters. Some had to do with cousins and great aunts and uncles. And a few had to do with the day to day – post office receipts, a letter from who knows who, church bulletins from services that must have meant something to them, but mean nothing to anyone in this generation.
It was a trip down the proverbial memory lane, for sure. And a lesson about what we keep, and how much my parents, and hers, and my father’s, kept to remind themselves of their children and grandchildren.
My parent’s died just a few years ago, but still, we are talking about years. I got a lot of packages of things my mom kept – poems, drawings, cartoons, letters. I went through some of them, but there are still some that I have not gone through.
Each time I begin, I get misty-eyed. Misty-eyed because I miss her (or in today’s case, them) and misty-eyed that I was that important to them, that loved that the slightest physical memory was worth keeping, and last of all, misty-eyed in gratitude – that I had her and the family I had, flaws, quirks and all, and that they loved me the best they could.
What surprises me still, is that even now, years later, it has the exact same effect on me that it had when got the first packet. The emotions are no less real, and no less strong than they were years ago. They just got packed away for a while.
I can’t tell you if it is a good feeling or a bad one. Some of both, I think. But I can tell you it is strong and I can only handle so much of it before I have to put it away.
This morning, I pulled things from the bibles and after reading them, I put them in stacks, one for each of my sisters, and one for my Dad’s sister. Later today I’ll pack them in envelopes and mail them off so they can share in my little discoveries.
I also have bins of photographs. Four or five of those big plastic tubs you get when you move or put things in the attic. I began scanning them in for my family to share, but stopped when the emotions got to be too much. Finally, I stopped altogether.
It’s time to begin again. These feeling may be mixed, but they are real, and even if they are hard sometimes, they are hard because I have been blessed with a rich tapestry of family, and feel a need to honor that by sharing it.
One photograph at a time.
Be well. Travel wisely,