Preserving your photos and memories in a tactile way, or memory-keeping, is an activity that requires a little planning and time but pays great dividends. In the struggle to find enough time in a day for everything we want to do, moving pictures from cameras or phones to a photo album or memory book oftentimes stays on our “wish list” and never makes it to our “to do” list. You’ve probably read several #familyhistoryfriday posts here about making time and some tips on making your memory-keeping goals into reality. One great way to accomplish any goal is to be held accountable for it, and this holds true for memory-keeping, too. Today we’ll look at one really fun, meaningful way to be accountable for preserving your pictures: making it a family tradition.
The Power of Tradition
A tradition is a regularly-repeated practice or event. The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is a tradition. The lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York City is another. Social or cultural traditions are often fun or entertaining, while family traditions often have a uniting power in them in addition to usually being fun and entertaining. From Sunday dinners to opening a gift on Christmas Eve that’s always new pajamas, family traditions create a comfortable, homey place to belong.
In her blog post “Creating Traditions That Make Family Memories,” Cora Foley wrote:
[Traditions] help shape a family’s legacy, while also instilling family values in its newest members, whether they be a baby or a spouse. Family traditions can also help solidify the bond between all family members, no matter the age or distance between them. If you document these family times with photos, videos, or written stories, the memories can be shared for generations, ensuring that your family legacy is always protected.
What if Memory-Keeping were a Regular Tradition?
Despite the busy-ness of life, we commonly prioritize traditions. Parents will always fill Christmas stockings, no matter how busy they are or how empty the wallet is. If you spend a week at the lake house every summer, you’ll make sure you spend a week at the lake house this summer. Traditions give us something to look forward to. Traditions build relationships. Traditions are good for the heart and soul, for kids and adults. Memories of the yearly beach trip or Easter Picnic stay with us.
You probably take pictures of all your traditions. So what if preserving those pictures and the memories you made with them were a regular tradition, too? What if that became part of what you always do? For one, you could stop feeling guilty for not doing anything meaningful with your photos, but the more important part is that you could have a new, meaningful, uniting family tradition as something everyone looks forward to. Memory-keeping might be the best family tradition you’ve never considered.
How to Begin a Memory-Keeping Family Tradition
Here are five steps to beginning a memory-keeping family tradition. Your own family looks different from others, so modify the suggestions below to fit your own situation.
- Get your family together to decide when. Set aside a regular and consistent date, time, and place for your Family Memory-Keeping Tradition. I suggest about one or two hours a week (like every Friday night or Sunday morning) or a larger block of time once a month. Put it on your calendar. Every single week or month! Choose a time that is relaxed and stress-free. There are some great ideas from a couple of different sources for “pruning and prioritizing” your time so you have more of it right here if you need some suggestions on making time.
- Make the tradition fun. Put on music, pop popcorn, or whatever creates a relaxing atmosphere in your home. It’s very important to create a feeling of belonging and connection during this time so that everyone looks forward to it. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t check e-mail. Focus on prioritizing your family, your photos, and your memories.
- Know that it will vary, but it all counts. Memory-keeping involves organizing photos, deciding which ones to preserve, and then either printing them to put in store-bought albums or uploading them to print in digital books or digital scrap pages, as well as writing down the memories and details of the photos. Your family memory-keeping tradition may not look the same each time–sometimes it could be uploading photos, sometimes it could be writing next to the photo. It all needs doing. Make it enjoyable for everyone by talking about what you’re doing. If it’s a boring upload from camera to computer, sit little ones on your lap and talk about the photos as they come up. “Wasn’t that fun?” “What was your favorite part?” And you might learn a lot, too!
- Involve everyone. You might have to get creative here, but it’s very do-able. If you’re preserving photos from your trip to the Grand Canyon, ask everyone to write down on pieces of paper what they remember about getting there, their first impressions of seeing the canyon, their favorite part of the trip, the funniest thing that happened, etc. This is a great way to reminisce together, which increases happiness and a sense of belonging, but it also serves as the perfect source for your memory books so you’ll know exactly what to write next to your photos. If you have really little ones, some tag team peek-a-boo might be in order–just be sure you’re still in the same room.
- Use a memory-keeping method everyone can participate in. When my kids were little, I thought I would be a super great mom by making a gingerbread house together. It took me about one time to realize that when they wanted to have blow-pops coming out of the roof (“cannons,” I was told) and I wanted the house to look like it belonged in a Victorian village, nobody was having fun. (We’ve done individual gingerbread houses since, and it’s a much-loved family tradition now.) So if you want to scrapbook using nice papers and professional stickers but don’t want to let your kids loose on that, you’ll need to involve them in other aspects like writing down their memories or coloring small pictures to put on the pages (and maybe put the pages together later on your own). I know several young moms who have told me they use Heritage Makers for their digital memory-keeping because they can have their young kids on their laps actually working with them without having a mess! Find age-appropriate responsibilities that contribute to the goal and are fun, too. Just make sure everyone is involved, even if it’s just talking or pushing a button to upload the photos to your computer.
It’s Not So Different
If you’re not sure how making memory-keeping into a family tradition will work in your particular family, I encourage you to give it a try and see. You may have a teenager who grumbles at everything, but you might be surprised at what being involved in memory-keeping might do for him. He will probably grumble through a few sessions, but memory-keeping is a blessing that touches hearts, so don’t give up. Creating a family tradition of preserving photos and memories isn’t so different from other traditions. It takes some work and planning, but give it some time and wait for the magic.
- Foley, Cora. (2017). Family Search Blog. Retrieved from https://familysearch.org/blog/en/creating-traditions-family-memories/
- Wikipedia. (2017). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockefeller_Center_Christmas_Tree
- Wikipedia. (2017). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running_of_the_Bulls