Sunday, November 29, 2009

Of heirlooms, antiques and a little creative effort

I’ve often suspected that most family groups are not even close to being like my own.  I’d bet that there are some families where every member is sane. 

No one in my family has a card certifying that they have been examined by psychiatrists at length and found to be certifiably SANE, so I have room to be suspicious as I continue relationships with them.

I also wonder if other families have certain individual “types;” you know,  those members with certain attributes that mark them as “collectors of family heirlooms” such as photographs, antiques, ceramic ware and glassware, etc..

I write about this subject because, though I don’t collect anything specific and relevant to my family as a group, I have been taking many pictures at family gatherings.  Maureen has taken twice as many as myself and thus, over the years, our digital image files have grown to a level whereby we couldn’t manage them without the help of specific software; something like Picasa or better.  I haven’t been looking for any of said software due to the fact that I’m quite happy with the FREE version of Picasa Google allowed me to download and use for some time now.

In my family, there are several members I’d classify as “collectors of family heirlooms.”  I don’t know why this is… but they are all females.  That fact may not be indicative of anything meaningful; it’s simply something that I’ve noticed and pondered about.

For years now, I’ve been trying to produce various Cds known as “Memory Disks” for my siblings.  They were nice to have but had limitations.  Once I was exposed to software like “Pinnacle Studio 12” being used to produce a video and photo presentation at a nephew’s 50th Birthday Party recently, I began to kid myself that I too could create something of that caliber and quality. I realized that if I were going to be successful, the first thing I needed was more family pictures, preferably the oldest photos of our family’s ancestors and of our oldest surviving members younger days. I knew they existed because at some time in the past, we had set around a large table on certain holidays with a large pile of old photos in the center that we were all going through.  Someone would find one that they just had to pass around for others to see because it was so special and then some would be found of someone that person didn’t know, so of course they would hold it up before everyone and ask, “Who is this?”  I know there was a time or two when no one present had a clue as to the person in a certain picture was. 

It turns out that most of our family heirloom type photos are in the possession of a few sisters or WAS in their possession until they had passed away.  I’ve lost two of my older sisters and today, I am the oldest sibling in our family.  For some time now, I’ve been literally “begging” anyone in my family to allow me to borrow their collections of photos so that I might scan them into my computer’s memory.  Once there, I could back them up and put them away for safe keeping.  Then, once I had them scanned, I could proceed toward my dream of creating special DVD disks of everything I had collected that could be presented to everyone desiring one.  These disks could be placed in their DVD players at home and shared with guests or family that hadn’t seen them before.
Last Sunday, the family gathered at my brother Bobby’s home for his version of Thanksgiving. He would be repeating the event on the actual day of national observance for Thanksgiving Day only then, he had certain others present. That way, those of us in our family that normally have a Thanksgiving meal in our own homes on Thanksgiving Day would still be able to continue on with this new tradition.  That’s what it was too; a new tradition.  It became one after those two older sisters had passed.  From that time on, no one had the experience or the desire to become the new gatherer of the CLANS.  It was a huge responsibility, one I personally couldn’t fathom taking on either.

Maureen had decided that she would make an afghan for the remaining siblings.  There was five currently living.  I was the sixth of that surviving group.  We had been nine in number for far more years than any of us expected.  Each and every year we came together, we realized how blessed we were to have everyone healthy and present, it was noted and commented about by more than a few.  Maureen managed to fulfill her intentions.  She created a total of six of her best works.  They were beautiful, each one an origin design.  After all…she was the owner of  Afghans by Maureen; her own Cottage Industry.

Long observed family traditions are almost always next to impossible to organize each year, but somehow, sister Becky and sister Frances had managed miracles on Thanksgiving and Christmas to accomplish the events that everyone enjoyed and shared for so long. I did all I could in an attempt to prepare the younger family members for the day when those older miracle workers would not be with us and  were unable to bring us all together once again.  I told them, “You must create and maintain your own family traditions.
This generation cannot continue this way forever.”  I hated being so right.  It came much sooner than any of us expected.

I took advantage of our most recent gathering at brother Bobby’s home, caught my brother-in-law as he was making his rounds of greetings and hugs with everyone and brought up the subject of what it might take to get him to allow me access to our second oldest sister’s picture collection now that she was gone on. I was concerned that he might not want to continue keeping them safe and undamaged.  I supposed that he was not the type that cared about such things.  What would happen to them should, God forbid, something happened to him?  Who would inherit the guardianship of such a family treasure? Had that thought even crossed his mind?

Becky; his wife and my sister, died in Oct of 2006, a little over three years ago.  Had he moved on?  We thought that he might have.  I know, back when she died, if anyone asked about those pictures she had accumulated, he hummed and hawed around, seeming very reluctant to let them out of his sight. He would say…”I don’t think Becky would appreciate that.”   So, that Sunday afternoon I asked him if I could make an appointment to come to his home, look through those pictures and select those I wished to scan for the record and return immediately when I was finished.  He thought about it and said, “Next Wednesday would be alright.  “That’s the only day of the week I don’t bowl.”   I asked him “What time should we be there?”  He said “Around ten o’clock, I’ll be up moving around by then.”  So, the day and time were set.
Would something change before then?  I hoped not.

I could think of little else other than that fateful day.  Next thing I knew…it had arrived.  We headed out for his home around nine, thinking we’d stop for some breakfast at a little family restaurant on Monmouth street in our old home town of Newporty, Kentucky.  Maureen’s cell phone rang while we were eating. It   was her sister, informing us that Howard had called, wondering where we were.  Maureen called Howard at home.  He said he was expecting us and wondered if we were coming.  Maureen told him we would be there in five minutes.  Believe it or not, we got lost on the way there.  So much had changed and besides that, my memory was not what it once was.  That fact says a lot.  It had been many years since I had roamed around my old haunts.  I forgot street names and city layout.  But, we finally DID arrive there.

No one was more shocked than Maureen and I.  Howard had brought all those pictures up from the basement and had them waiting near the front door.  He warned us that it might take a truck to carry all of  it and he was right.  Good thing we have a RAV4.  It is classified as a truck in the title.  We chatted while Maureen began to carry the containers out to the car and load them up.  Howard and I took the biggest and heaviest plastic tub out for her since she said she couldn’t handle it.  We stayed for a while after the pictures were safely loaded.  One can tell when someone they are visiting is anxious and would rather be going somewhere else if we weren’t there.  So we excused ourselves, thanked him profusely over and over for his generosity and cooperation.  Howard confessed that he had made plans for the day and had to get ready to leave.  He was going to “The Boats” to do some gambling.  I hoped that he won something.

We spent the rest of that day and most of the next two days going through all those pictures.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the experience.  I was thrilled to see all those faces I knew from so long ago. We had our Thanksgiving meal Thursday, sharing it with our daughter, Kellie.  After it, Kellie volunteered o help with the scanning of the pictures we had already selected.  She was fast and accurate.  I knew all that experience with computers and software would come in handy one day.  I know we went through several thousands of images just to get the five hundred or so we selected as the chosen few.  I’m glad I had some measure of control and a practical mindset.  If it were not so, we may have ended up with way too much for one DVD disk. 

I burned the first two copies of the prototype and tested it on our DVD player to see if it would work and how it looked. It looked and sounded great.  Oh! Didn’t I mention that it has background music of my choosing on it too?  Then, just to be safe, we called brother Bobby and asked him if we could run over to his home and try it out on his home theater set-up.  If it works there, it should work anywhere. It was amazing.  Bobby seemed entranced by what we saw.  That was a good sign.

I just love it when a plan comes together.  If all goes right, we will have DVDs for everyone on Christmas Eve night at our traditional gift exchange and handmade creations from the hands of my loving bride for a special few. 

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