The family archivist

October 6, 2010

My Aunt MiMi was the family archivist. I suppose every family has one. They’re the ones that always have the camera, fully-loaded and at the ready, for every family event.

I’m pretty sure my Aunt single-handedly kept Kodak in business. The volumes of family photos in her home are the library of our family’s existence. They preserve every smile, candid or forced, as well as long-forgotten dinners or hairstyles. They are, in fact, much like looking at your life under a strobe light. You see enough pieces to catch the trace of the events, but not so much that you catch what happens in the dark moments.

It’s interesting to see a life well-lived in photos. The older ones, before digital cameras, vary greatly in quality. Blurry and poorly cropped photos have a home next to the crisp ones. I do remember those times of waiting to get the roll developed to see what turned out, or more likely, what didn’t. You couldn’t go back and reshoot a moment if the processed roll didn’t bear photographic fruit. So, just like my Aunt, you framed the good images with the bad ones since the fuzzy photos still contained memories.

I always cherished the photos I would get in the mail after family events. My Aunt always made sure to print and mail a few extra shots she thought I might like. Even after she switched over to digital cameras, those faithful envelopes would still greet me after each event. Even though I encouraged her to “just email me the photos” or put them on Facebook (heaven forbid), she wouldn’t.  That wasn’t her style, but that was okay.

These photos are more than just a history; they are part of her legacy to us. She passed away this past week, and there are enough photos for each branch of the family to take some with us. It doesn’t make sense to keep this “collection” intact, as the joy of these memories will spread more if we split them up.

At the beginning of the year, I started the project of organizing my years of family photos myself. I got pretty far, but there are still loose photos all over a table in my home. I think in honor of my Aunt, I should commit to organizing them all before the year is up. I do know, with the new additions from her collection to mine, I’ll have a bigger project at hand so I should start now.

Ken and Gloria "MiMi" Robinson on their wedding day, October 21, 1961

Remembering One Great Woman

We each have someone in our life that’s important. MiMi was certainly a very important person to me and I owe her so much.

She was the one who kept the family connected. She was the one always there to help when we needed it the most. She was the one to give you advice when you wanted it, and even sometimes when you didn’t ask for it. But that’s one thing I always loved about her – she spoke her mind and you always knew where you stood with her.

She was a wonderful wife, mother, role model and friend. But she was also a hard-working woman with a love of life. She never liked to sit still. She enjoyed traveling with her family and friends and certainly had a better social life than many people half her age.

But all good things have to come to an end. Seeing her struggle with cancer broke my heart a little more each day, but she’s at peace now.

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