My brother Mike called me not long ago to ask me to start a project: to bring to life some of the people his children will know only in old photos. "You know so many of the stories and the people in those photos," he said. "I wish you would do more than just label them -- although that's important, too. Could you maybe make little memory books so my children will have some idea about who these people were? I want them to know Aunt Molly from her childhood on -- and how we loved her and what an impact she had on our lives."
He's right that I know a lot of the stories our parents, Aunt Molly and other long-departed relatives told. When I was a little girl, my favorite stories were the true ones. I would pester my mother, my father, Aunt Molly, Grandma, Aunt Evelyn and Aunt Ruth for stories about when they were children.
For my mother, her mother and her sisters Evelyn and Ruth, these were stories about close family life on a Kansas farm, in the days when farming was a family tradition not a corporate enterprise and in a small town where friendships spanned generations.
For my father and his sister Molly, childhood stories revolved around early loss -- their father died when they were very young -- and early hardship as my father struggled to support the family as a child actor in Hollywood films and vaudeville. They lost their mother when Molly was a teenager and my father a young college student -- and they both worked their way through UCLA -- and shared a lifelong bond forged in hardship and in love, despite their considerable personal differences.
While planning (and procrastinating) on this family memories project, I came across some wonderful digital scrapbook software that is making my task much easier. It is called MyMemories.com and it offers wonderful software suites (not only for memories in general but also for weddings and for photo albums with a special flair) and templates for scrapbooks, and memory books for all occasions. I'm using the My Memories Suite software for my photo and text memory book. For the truly creative, music and videos can be added to the mix. You can even record your own narration for your family's story to go along with the photos and videos!
I've started small -- with a test memory book on Aunt Molly who was, of course, my very favorite family member. I'm using a lovely, nostalgic template -- but have removed some of the beautiful art flourishes in order to have more room for text. (It's very flexible that way.) Here are my first test pages. Those of you who have read my previous writings about my beloved Aunt Molly will understand how much this fledgling memory book will mean to me and my family. I'm going to be adding a lot more pages and more decorative flourishes to this book as I get more confident and inspired. But this is my tentative beginning.
As I've been working on these pages, I've been thinking of so many of you who are so much more artistically talented than I am and all the beautiful projects you might like to make. There is a lot you can do with this software, I'm finding. You can keep a memory book or scrapbook as an online project or you can arrange to have it printed into family treasure to hand down through the generations.
If you feel inclined to try such a project, too, I'm offering a Giveaway: one reader will win a My Memories software package, valued at $39.97. How do you enter? It's easy.
1. Just go to the My Memories website and check it out. You can access the site via this link:
2. Pick your favorite digital paper pack or template.
3. Come back to this blog post and leave a comment about your favorite template and what kind of a project you envision doing with it. That's all it takes to participate in the Giveaway!
For those of you who are interested in buying the software right now, My Memories is offering a special discount to my readers: $10 off the regular price.
How do you get the discount? Go to www.MyMemories.com and click on the software suite you wish to buy. On check-out, enter the following code for your discount: STMMMS26291
This software is a user-friendly, high tech approach to keeping your family memories alive -- not only for you, but also for your children, grandchildren and those who come after. It's a great way to make sure that those old photos sitting around in boxes can tell a story about you and your family for generations to come.
My brother and I have been coming up with all kinds of ways we want to introduce his young children -- and my sister's child as well -- to those we knew -- and a few we didn't -- who lived large in life and in our memories. If the the new baby they're expecting this summer turns out to be a boy, Mike and Amp are thinking of naming him Henry Patrick after the grandfather and great-grandfather we never knew in life, but who has lived on in our imaginations as we've heard the stories and studied the pictures of him from nearly a century ago.
The very best memories of all, of course, come from spending treasured time with someone who will always live on in our hearts. The next generation can't possibly know what a delight it was to run into the ocean holding Aunt Molly's hand or to hear the sound of her laughter, feel the warmth of her embrace or spend the enchanting times with her when she would spin poetry for us as easily as making conversation. But maybe, with our stories, through our memory books and through the love and laughter we pass on to them, Aunt Molly will live on as a very special family member in their loving memories for many years to come.