I met this guy at a party the other night and when I told him that I was a personal historian and biographer, he became really, really excited. He said to me, “I have to show you this album I did with my son for his 5th grade class project.” He was sort of self-deprecating about it, saying that it wasn’t really good quality but I could tell he was very excited about it and even more excited to find someone to talk about it with. Mostly he seemed concerned that his wife wouldn’t want him showing it to me. I said, “go get it!” since he lived across the street from the house the party was at. He agreed to go get it but asked me to meet him at the front door since he didn’t want his wife to see him showing it to me. When he came back, he caught my eye from the front door and I signaled that I would meet him in the dining room. I slipped in there and we tried to find the light switch. I felt very “secret agent”, as if I was on some sort of clandestine assignation with a informant. “Move over here so my wife can’t see us,” he told me. He laid the book out on the table and we began to thumb through it.
Basically, what he’d done was to scan and copy photos and organized them into a small family history album. He had photos of his side of the family and his wife’s side of the family, both going back a few generations and accompanied by a few paragraphs of information about each person. Then there were photos celebrating the birth of his son and the book veered off to acknowledging the yearly accomplishments of his son with lots of anecdotal stories. It combined elements of a scrapbook, genealogical tree, photo album and family history. It wasn’t great quality, just information scanned and copied on printer paper and put in plastic sleeves of a notebook. But i was very moved with his sharing this album with me and his obvious excitement and enthusiasm for not only creating it in the first place, which was an impressive feat, but getting how significant it was to have put this into existence. He was also very interested in doing more. Perhaps exploring further collection of materials and putting this into digital format where it could be shared with other family members.
After we were finished, while he ran the book back home, I wandered into the kitchen and found his wife. “I can’t believe he went home and got that to show you,” she said, obviously a bit embarrassed. I told her how impressed I was by the whole album and by his excitement. She seemed surprised and I saw a window of opportunity open there to let her know how important this was. I told her how he had created something that, whether he expanded on it in the future or not, was now some tangible format of the people and stories in their son’s past. It would be something their son would take with him into his journey in life and provide him some grounding on where he came from.
I saw her beginning to understand all this and was myself excited to think that perhaps from that point on, she might encourage him to continue on his passionate quest to know his past.
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.