3 Lessons Losing My Grandma Taught Me About Photos
My Grandma was an amazing woman. Originally from Germany, she went through many trying times as a child during WWII, then as an adult as she and my Grandpa made the decision to move their family from Germany to the United States.
Time passed quickly and their young children weren’t so young anymore. Their children went off, got married and had children of their own.
That's when the Sunday Lunch Tradition was born.
When you are little kid, it is something you enjoy. You get to hang out with your cousins and play while the adults do adult things. As you grow up, though, it becomes more of a burden. Not many teenagers understand or appreciate the value of tradition until they are on their own and start to see things changing around them. Those feelings of “home” and “tradition” start to make sense and they begin to realize how important those Sunday lunches truly were because now you don’t attend them nearly as often as you used to.
I never thought before about how this must have felt to my Grandma. Watching it all slowly slip away and there was nothing she could do about it. She knew the grandchildren would grow up to have lives of their own, but that doesn’t mean it makes it any easier.
Now that I'm a mama, I understand what she went through. I regret not spending more time with her. I regret not having a closer relationship with her. I understand how she must have felt as she saw the changes in her family start to unfold. You know what though?
We weren’t the only ones that were changing, SHE was changing, too.
The home-cooked Sunday meals were replaced with pizza or fried chicken once a month, then twice a month. She was growing tired and couldn’t keep up with the intensity of the meal planning, shopping, preparing, waking up before 4AM to get the turkey in the oven kind of intensity.
When I finally realized what was happening, I had an epiphany! I NEEDED to photograph HER SUNDAY from start to finish. Such a constant in my life and my cousins’ lives and my dad’s life and my aunt and uncle’s lives NEEDED TO BE DOCUMENTED. So I asked my dad one afternoon if he thought Grandma would let me come over to document her day and our family. A tradition and an heirloom that would forever be treasured by so many people. He looked at me and chuckled stating that she does not like to have her picture taken, let alone photographing her while she was preparing her meal. I was sad and disappointed and I let his comment stop me from asking her.
One week later, my Grandma was in the hair salon getting her weekly style when she had a seizure. She was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was never the same after that day. Those Sunday lunches were no more and now we are only left with the memories our brain will hopefully not forget. This brings me to...
LESSON NUMBER ONE - PHOTOGRAPH THEM ANYWAY
So yeah, my Grandma didn’t like to have her picture taken. MANY people don’t like to have their picture taken. She didn’t like to see that she was aging. She didn’t think about how it would make ME feel not having those photographs. Just like I didn’t think about how me not being there at Sunday dinners for all those years made HER feel.
So take my advice and PHOTOGRAPH THEM ANYWAY. You might feel uncomfortable. You might feel awkward. You might even feel afraid. What if they don’t understand? What if they get mad at me about it? You know what?
THEY WILL GET OVER IT.
I recently created a survey with some questions about memories and photographs. One of the questions was “who do you wish you had more photos of?” Do you know what the number one answer was? You guessed it. GRANDPARENTS. So trust me when I say PHOTOGRAPH THEM ANYWAY. You will have irreplaceable memories documented for you, your children, and your children’s children.
LESSON NUMBER TWO - ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS EFFICIENTLY
My Grandma lived a little over a year after she was diagnosed. They operated to remove the tumor, but it grew back quicker and stronger. There was nothing more they could do.
When my cousin contacted me asking for photographs I had of my Grandma with her Great Grandbabies for the funeral, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Until I went looking...I couldn’t find any of them on my computer!
So to recap, the first lesson taught us several things:
A) That my Grandma did not like pictures taken
B) Because of that, I was afraid to take out my camera and photograph anyway
C) PHOTOGRAPH THEM ANYWAY. I can’t stress that enough.
So, because of A and B, this meant what photographs I had would be limited. Fine. Nothing I can do about that, but for some reason,
I COULDN’T FIND ANY OF THEM.
WHY CAN’T I FIND ANY OF THEM?
Well, like most moms I have thousands of photographs of my children. Ok, I have four children, so like hundreds of thousands of photographs. They are all organized by date because, you know, that makes sense to have all of the February images in a February folder right?
I hadn’t the slightest clue what date to even start at. As my brain tried to remember what photographs I knew I had taken, I tried to think about how old my daughter might have been when it was taken. Did I find it? NOPE. Did I find 64 images of her sitting in her highchair eating spaghetti for the first time? Yes. Were there only 3 good images out of that 64 that were worth keeping? Yes.
Take it from me and don’t leave those 61 extra, blurry, arm in the way images in your folder. They are not doing you any good. Don’t JUST file them by date. Create a collection of folders for all of the important people in your life. If you have to duplicate the images because you have to have them by date, that is completely fine. Just remember every photo has a date stamp with it so you can always find that information out later no matter what folder you put it in.
As for the images of my Grandma, I finally found them. They are now in a special folder that I can go back to any time I want to see her smiling face.
Wait WHAT?!? A “special folder” so I can click on it when I want to see her?
Hello, Lesson Number Three - PRINT YOUR PHOTOS
I could go on and on about how important it is to print your photos. Oh wait, I do, I actually wrote about it here “To Print Or Not To Print?”
The short version though? PRINT YOUR PHOTOS
Why take them if they are just going to sit on your computer? Don’t you want to walk down the hallway and see that smiling face every day or watch you littles' eyes dance as they open the album they just took off the shelf? I know I do.
Please don't just let them sit there. Facebook and Instagram are not enough!
Now all I can do is hope my lessons have helped to prevent you from making the same mistakes I have made over the years. So go on and snap those pictures of your Grandparents, keep them somewhere you can find them on your computer, then get them OFF your computer.