Yesterday, I spent a few hours at my mom’s house going through two huge chests full of old memorabilia. I found pictures that jogged memories from my past, answered some questions, and raised more questions. I feel like I’m always learning a little something new about myself and my family history.
Some of the items I found are report cards, art, and writing from three generations of women. I found my grandfather’s wallet intact with telling content and a package full of his Mason books and reference books with secret code translations. I also found birth and death certificates that I had never seen before, which answered a question I had and gave me closure that I needed. I found my grandmother’s diaries, which tell a story I’m not sure I’m ready to know; records of activities I participated in and have no memory of, and lots of other random and interesting memorabilia dating back to my great great great grandparents.
One thing I didn’t find was anything about my biological father. My mom and dad divorced when I was around a year old, but I’ll save that story for another time. Today’s post will only be about what I now know for sure.
My mom kept a school memory album for me from Kindergarten through sixth grade. I learned a lot about my past from that book–things I don’t remember or have vague recollection of, but that make sense to me now. I found some missing links, which helped me understand what I couldn’t piece together before. I also see similarities between my older daughter and I that I didn’t know existed. More like things I didn’t remember until I saw proof on paper (more on that in a later post).
Seeing all my report cards and state test scores was weird. Whenever I think back to my school days, I always think of myself as good in language arts and really bad at math. That has been a black and white thought cemented in my mind.
I remember winning some writing and spelling contests and those memories stuck. I remember scoring poorly at comprehension one year, but taking a speed reading class fixed that. I also have a memory, which left a lasting impression on me, of my uncle being frustrated while trying to help me with math. I have always thought I must have really sucked at math; I’m terrible at math; I can’t do anything related to math. It’s been a sticking point for me, even though I love geometry and quantified scientific research.
After looking through all my report cards, it turns out that I did just as well in math as I did in language arts. In fact, I scored highest in math on all of my ITBS state test scores. How could that be? How could I be fine at math all those years, but my memories are of being really really bad at math?
I told my mom my memory about my uncle. She said that he was frustrated because he was so bad at math and he didn’t know how to do the work. It had nothing to do with my skills and me, but that’s how I remember it. This may not seem like a big revelation to you, but to me it is because “that” is a problem that I have had—thinking I’m doing something wrong or that I’m not good enough and letting those thoughts hold me back from trying because of fear of failure. (This example also is a warning for me to be careful of how I’m coming across to our girls when it comes to school work or trying new things.)
It’s funny how our memories can play tricks on us. If there is no physical proof of actual memories, all we are left with are subjective thoughts, bits, and pieces that may or may not be true. We can’t expect ourselves or our parents to remember everything, but when there is proof on paper, you can’t really argue with the evidence.
Keep all the papers, notes, and random memorabilia you think are not important—they will be important or of interest to someone one day! They may help you understand not only your past and your family’s past, but also may help you or your children put closure to feelings or thoughts that had previously felt undone.
One of my friends from my childhood has no pictures of herself from her youngest years, but I do, and she’s asked me to share them with her. She said she doesn’t remember much from that time. Maybe pictures will help her remember some things too. I don’t know…
What I do know is that I’m going to take a slower look at those chests and ask more questions. I’m going to read through my grandma’s “biography” because I really want to know.
There is no right or wrong way to preserve your memories for future generations. Just go for it!