I may be a bit biased since it’s my line of work, but for me, photographs are an integral part of preserving family memories. There’s a time and a place to document family portraits professionally, but there’s also a soft spot in my heart for snapshots — they capture candid moments from life that are totally unplanned and spontaneous. Both types of photos are different. But both kinds are important for creating a lasting family legacy.
While I’ve written about being inspired by my paternal grandparents (My Photographic Inspiration + The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), I have to confess there are many relatives who have encouraged and supported me along my life’s journey. So today, I wanted to share this picture from my personal archives — it’s of me and my maternal grandpa when I was a toddler.
I love this photograph! It was taken when I was a toddler, in my childhood home. We were painting Christmas candles (well, one of us was!). I loved helping turn white tapered candles into advent calendars. We would paint red and green elves around the base of the taper (bottom 3″ or so), and then the rest would be evenly divided into 24 sections — numbered 1-24 for each day of December. Then came the fun part! Remembering to light the candle at dinner every day so that we could melt the elves by Christmas day.
Over the years, my grandpa has explored many different media in addition to painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic). He used to have a woodworking “shop” in his basement (later it moved to the garage). In addition to making utilitarian items, he was quite skilled at wood marquetry, wood carving, and pretty much anything that required tinkering (that comes from being an engineer, I think). My favorite wedding gift was from my grandfather — a marquetry panel of a ship. It’s framed and hangs at the top of our stairs, so I get to enjoy it every time I climb the steps.
I have many fond memories of painting and creating with my grandfather. He had drawers and bins of interesting do-dads and whatchamacallits that my brother and I would use to make things. We helped make a castle (think dollhouse, but bigger) with a plexiglass moat able to hold real fish. There was an oscilloscope in his workshop that we loved to play with too. My favorite cookies are Springerles — his specialty. These German cookies may be an aquired taste, but I loved helping select which hand carved mold to press into the dough. My grandfather even made some molds especially for us grandkids! The best part, though, was eating a freshly cooked Springerle (first dipped in milk).
Isn’t it amazing what stories can come from just reminiscing over one snapshot from your past? That’s why I love photographs. They open the floodgates, revive memories which have long faded into subconscious. Pictures take us back to that moment, remind us of the things we truly value in life.
I am so grateful that my son has had the opportunity to know my grandpa, or as he is called: “Great Grandpa Rebeck with the broken cane.” Even though he lives many states away now, my son still remembers when my grandpa visited — and Toby was allowed to help “fix” great grandpa’s “broken” cane (one of those nifty collapsible ones).
It’s so hard to attribute any one thing to my grandpa, because he really did help expand my way of thinking. I’m one of those people who always asks “why,” who loves to know how things work, and who enjoys taking apart or putting back together little do-dads. My comfort with adapting new technology probably comes from my grandpa too — while an engineer he worked on the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment project (ALSEP). After the moon landing, he eventually went into the computer technology field — I grew up familiar with that blue and red DOS screen, and even learned how to write simple DOS computer programs from him as well.
Important of Snapshots + Memories (Resources)
Here are a few links about the importance of snapshots and memories. You may also want to check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.
- The Importance of Everyday Moments
- The Meaning in a Drawer Full of Old Family Snapshots
- The Importance of Imperfect Snapshots
- Keeping Memories Alive: The Importance of Photos and Video
- Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain
- Preserving Your Digital Memories (PDF)
What Memories Do Your Snapshots Bring To Mind?
Even if you don’t have an extensive collection of family photos, I’m sure you have a few snapshots that bring back many memories. Maybe tearful ones rather than joyful, but important memories nevertheless. We are defined, in part, by our past experiences. We don’t have to let ourselves be bound or limited by those memories, but we can learn and grow from them.
What about your favorite photo? Does looking at it bring a slew of memories to the forefront of your mind?