Captioning Your Memories (or “You Did What to That Antique?!”)

A couple of years ago, I cleaned out the boxes in our “attic”. I got rid of the stuff we thought we might use again when we put it in the box, but was now obvious we never would. When I cleaned out the memory boxes*, I got rid of all the things I couldn’t remember why we’d saved or what they were. There were little bits of paper, champagne corks, broken toys, pressed flowers, and other things that brought no recollection of any happy time enjoyed with them. I’m sure these objects were important to us at one time. I’m certain that if I could remember when we got them or what memory they stood for, it would warm my heart and maybe bring a tear to my eye. But at this moment, it was nothing but stuff taking up space.

That’s when I started labeling our memories.

I don’t have the best memory to begin with. Thank God for the advent of digital photography. Without the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years, I probably wouldn’t have much memory of individual events at all. And here’s where I should be telling you that I print out a small photo of the event that goes with the memory item, and put both in a Ziplock bag so they stay together when I put them into the memory box. Then when I go through the memory box in years to come, the photo instantly brings back a full recollection of the day.

But I’m not that organized. And I just thought of that idea this minute. And it might take too much effort to find and print the photo. I tend to like to do things the most expedient (read: easy) way.

So what I did do when I cleaned out the memory boxes was to write little snippets of the memories on small pieces of paper and attach them to every item that might not be remembered the moment it was again discovered. A baby’s shirt might say, “J wore this to the first baseball game he ever attended. Nana & Papa came with us” and the date as best I could remember it. I didn’t write out all the details, just enough to bring to mind the rest of the story.

And just this moment, I decided I’m going to call this “Captioning,” because it is just like putting a caption on a photograph.

Now when I put stuff into our memory boxes, I put a tag on them of some sort, a caption. What use is a memento if you can’t remember what it stands for?
 

I do this on lots of stuff in different ways. My favorite is the wine corks. I only started liking wine on my 50th birthday. Four people gave me red wine, but I wasn’t a wine drinker at all. I wanted them to know I appreciated their gifts, so we opened a bottle at the party. I was surprised to find I actually liked it! Since then, Hubby and I have been exploring wines a little. So when we have a bottle on a special occasion (or a Wednesday), I write the date and what we were doing on the cork, and then save it in our big glass jar. It’s a funky scrapbook of family memories.

Someday someone is going to replace our laminate flooring. When they do, they are going to find the memories all four of us wrote on the sub-floor the day we installed the flooring.
 

I caption the scorecard when we are playing any game that requires the score to be kept on paper, like Scrabble or Password. I write at the top of the score pad who’s playing, what else we did that day, and the date. When we play again, we can go back through the memories of other fun times.

I also (now some of you may cringe at this, especially if you love antiques) write on the undersides of old furniture. Hubby and I love to look at old (especially mid-century) furniture and household things and speculate about the life they have lived. Who owned this? How long did they have it? Was it a happy home? Things like that. So for the sake of whoever owns some of our pieces later, I’ve written some of the history on a hidden part of it. We have a lamp table from Hub’s grandfather’s house from the 1940’s or 50’s, an old drop leaf table Hub bought for me when I was away at a ladies’ retreat in 1985, a clock his parents got when they first got married, and a few other pieces on which I’ve written the history as I know it on some hidden part. Monetarily, it might decrease the value, but historically and sentimentally I think it increases the value.  

So what about you? Do you do anything like this to help you and those who come after you know what made special objects special?

*Memory Boxes: I have always kept a box with a lid on it in each family member’s closet. They are marked with their name, dated, and numbered in succession. When there is a memento from a special event, it’s labeled and dropped into the memory box. It’s lazy scrapbooking, but it works. When the box is full, it goes into the attic, and a new box is started. I only hope is that now that my kids are getting to the stage of leaving the nest, they going to take all their boxes with them!

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