Very valuable

These memories are among the photos and cards saved by Daddy's mother.  I re-discovered them on an recent trip home in March, 2014.

These memories are among the photos and cards saved by Daddy’s mother.
I re-discovered them on an recent trip home in March, 2014.

“What a pity that I didn’t keep my childhood – it would be very valuable now.” 
Ashleigh Brilliant

One year ago today, I wrote about the April birthday shared by my father and my brother.  I had forgotten that my father’s father, who died when I was a baby, had almost had the same birthday.  I re-discovered this fact as I was rummaging through my father’s baby book which was kept lovingly by his mother, so long ago that it’s now officially an antique!  I am grateful she saved these bits from the past, and they somehow survived so that I can enjoy them today.

In contemporary culture, we struggle with having too many things.  Almost all of us need to throw away, give away or otherwise part with a great deal of what we have.  But save a few tokens of the past for future generations to enjoy.  Someday, they will be very valuable to people who are probably not even born yet.  I never knew my paternal grandfather, but a part of him lives on in his letters and photographs.  As an actor in a traveling theatre troupe, he was away from home when my father was born, but penned this letter to him that has now been read by many descendents he never met.

By the way: as it happens, Ashleigh (the author of this quote) did save a good bit of his childhood, in the form of detailed journals he kept from boyhood on, which he has laboriously transcribed verbatim to digital files, and shared online with his friends and fans.  Reading through them gives a fascinating picture of what everyday life was like in wartime England.  Ashleigh’s reflections on the headlines we studied decades later in history class provide us with a boy’s viewpoint on difficult circumstances, under which life nonetheless went on.  But it’s the everyday details I find most interesting, the things that never made it into the history books.

I hope you will keep at least a little of your childhood in the tangible symbols that your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren can enjoy long after you have left this earth.

One year ago today:

Born on his father’s birthday



  1. How lucky you are :o). Unfortunately I think many families discarded items, cards, letters due to the time and circumstances. I have made a genealogy book of both sides of my family, and getting information was difficult. Believe it or not there are not that many of us that think that is important. I loved that you have the good fortune to peek into you own personal history book. :o) Great Post.

    • Thank you, Patricia! I imagine you learned a lot about your family when you went to Sicily. I am looking forward to reading about it in The Italian Thing. Were you able to hear any oral history that was new to you?

      • Yes, our Zio (Uncle) and some of the aunts told us stories that were never told before. Plus we went to the municipal office in the square and a woman that worked there her name is Anna was a big help. That was my husbands family though. My family originated in Naples and we don’t know what town or village my family was from, but I keep on trying and one day I will succeed. :o)

        • Maybe you can go back to visit Naples as a research trip for your next book. That’s my kind of “work.” 🙂 We fell in love with the Amalfi coast and want to go back there if we possibly can. Just had one day there on a cruise.

  2. lynn

    Oh those cards are delightful to see this morning…. what a gift in many ways they were saved. I’m one of those people with a tendency to throw stuff out — but i do save cards and sure hope someone will enjoy them someday!

    • Hi Lynn, it is so nice to hear from you! It’s a struggle to know what to keep; I wish I was one who knew how to throw things away. But I know you will save at least a few memories of that beautiful grandchild – they grow so quickly, don’t they? And it’s easy to forget the various stages. Thank goodness for being able to digitize some of this stuff – it does take much less space that way. Thanks for being this morning!

  3. I have some items, but wish I had more. However your blog has started me thinking about putting a scrapbook together.

    • I hope you will be able to do that. Someday the cards and notes that look so commonplace to us may look antique to others! But I have no room to talk – I have boxes of stuff I need to either clean out or put into scrapbooks or at least organize. Much of it should be thrown away, I’m sure. My dilemma is I have a terribly hard time deciding what to keep, so I save TOO MANY things and it becomes overwhelming. Thanks for being here, and for your comment!

  4. We’ve been going through a lot of old family diaries, etc recently and it’s made me wonder what my descendants would find interesting of mine…?… Hmmm

    • Denise, that’s a hard question to answer, but I do think they will find your online activities interesting; are you backing up your blog? Alys explained to me how to do that and it’s fairly simple. Also, I think any kind of ephemera that is closely linked to a specific point in time (ticket stubs to movies and plays, headlines from newspapers, letters with details about everyday life, cards that mark milestone occasions, photos with settings that are likely to change over time) are always fascinating to look at decades later. Of course, there’s no way to know what any individual person might find appealing and/or interesting years later. If you like it, perhaps at least some of your descendants might have a genetic proclivity to like it too.

      • Those are very good ideas, Julia.
        I don’t know how to back up my blog. I’ll check into that, or if you want to email me your directions that would be wonderful!
        Thank you!

        • Hi Denise, there are a couple of easy ways to back up the blog. One, from your dashboard, click on “Tools” then choose “Export” and you can export your entire blog (or the parts of it you choose) as an XML file, which can then be imported into other WordPress sites or any program that uses the XML format (and there are a great many of those). This would enable you to easily replace your blog if some cyber-accident deleted it from the “cloud.” I save everything from my blog, comments and all, and given that I post DAILY for over 500 days now, and have tons of photographs, I’ve been surprised how quickly it all backs up and how little space it takes. From time to time, I back up the file again to update the previous backup.

          Another idea I’d like to try if I ever have time is to create a “mirror blog” or test blog that is unpublished and enables the user to test different themes or other changes. Here are some links that might be helpful:

 (for basic information about backing up blogs)

 (scroll down to “Every blogger needs a test blog.”)

          • Wow! Thank you, I will look into all of this.

            • Good luck! 🙂

  5. Carlyle

    Thanks for the Birthday remembrance. I enjoyed reading the post from last year, Eric and Sherry are at a Civil War relics show in Fredricksburg but I’ m sure he will see your blog.


    • Thank you Daddy! The memorabilia I “borrowed” last time I was home will be returned on our next visit, and I’ll put it back in your baby book where it belongs. Remember the birthday gift I left for you – and I hope you have a Happy Birthday! Love you.

  6. Rene

    Years ago, my mother put together a box of baby/childhood items of mine. I have been waiting for the “right” (read: large block of uninterrupted) time to go through it. She came to visit last weekend, and at her suggestion, I went through it while sat & knitted away. It was a revelation and a time I won’t soon forget. It included a lot of cards my mom received from her baby shower & a hilarious artistic/literary rendition of my family circa the 3rd or 4th grade. There was also a letter my dad had written to me while he was on a business trip. Mom said she managed to save one letter of his for each of us. He traveled a lot in that job and she says he wasn’t very good about writing (he apparently struggled with writing from the time he was young). I’m finding myself going on and on about the experience, so I’ll stop now & just promise to do a better job of saving for my own kids!

    • Rene, I appreciated the details you gave us; you could have gone “on and on” some more and I would have loved it! What a wonderful gift your mother gave you, and I am so glad you took the time to explore and discover it while she was sitting nearby. I wish I had such a treasure trove saved for me. It’s something I’ve tried to do for my own sons, although I’m afraid I’ve gone a bit overboard! I did save a few baby gifts and have given a couple of Drew’s to Grady already. Thanks for telling us about this; perhaps other readers will be inspired to do likewise.

  7. Julia, a delightful picture and blog. Lately I’ve been thinking of what to do with my journals…the recycling bin at the water department comes to mind… 🙂 lol

    • oh, yes…my birthday is in April…and I’ve been trying let go of things, stop collecting…

      • Happy Birthday this month, Merry! I have the same problem with letting go. I save TOO MANY things. One solution I’ve found is to take digital photos of some memorabilia – YES there is such a thing as “digital hoarding” but at least it doesn’t take up nearly as much space or need dusting if it’s stored on a flash drive! Also, I’m working on learning to “pick and choose” what I save. If I can find a way to get things to people who want or need them for any good reason (not for people such as I who need to stop collecting too!) that also makes it easier to part with things, especially things like books (I swap them on the PBS site, for which I have widget at right here) or craft supplies (teachers often love them and use lots) or anything that can be recycled or re-purposed. My aversion to throwing things away stems equally from sentimentality and fear of wasting resources. Neither is a bad way to be, as long as we keep it under control — more easily said than done!

    • OH NO Merry, don’t get rid of your journals! Those are the best history ever – even if one of your family doesn’t want them, future historians might need them to record what everyday life was like. Journals are “primary documents” and even though there will hopefully be many of them extant in 100 years, each will be unique. Surely they don’t take up that much room. 🙂 I have very few journals I kept but reading through them is a real revelation, so many things I would not have remembered without them.

    • Rene

      Yesterday, my husband suggested (threatened?) that he might turn my journals into poems after I am gone. I had never really wanted him to go first before…;)

      • Hee-hee, perhaps he feels the same way – he wants you to stick around longer than he does, so he is giving you some incentive! Seriously, this gives you time to censor them and remove anything you don’t want to share with posterity. I just read a very scary article in Kiplinger’s about the total lack of privacy in this brave new electronic world, so I figure we’re all in the same boat, whether we blog and journal, or not. Apparently Google and other virtual giants know our every move nowadays. Creepy, but there’s not much we can do about it. Meanwhile, I hope you will keep writing and just hide the stuff you don’t want published! 🙂

  8. Those are great to have Julia. I imagine touching and sifting through items celebrating the birth of a grandfather you unfortunately never got to know must be comforting. I don’t have anything from my dad’s childhood or life. When my dad passed away, nothing was ever offered, so I hang tight to memories and write them on my blog sometimes to share with family. My dad’s parents were very poor and had little in the way of ‘things’ to pass along. There is a wedding picture, which luckily I was able to make a copy of years ago but that’s the only thing. No dishes, no clocks or any of those things that are sometimes passed along. Have you scanned your precious items for save keeping in case of damage or loss? That’s one nice thing about blogging too, hopefully stories and photo’s we share, will always be here. xoK

    • I have only a few tangible objects from my grandmothers, two or three small things, but I still have all their letters to me, and I hope someday to scan them. I do agree with you that blogging is a great way to save memories. I think very few families in past generations had the luxury of spending time or money on photographs, journals, and other forms of saving memories. Those of us whose relatives did keep such records can now share them with the world if they choose, and I hope many will do that. Sheryl Lazarus has done a great job blogging her grandmother’s diary, which is now available for us to read today. She posts the entries 100 years to the day from when they were first written! It’s an interesting blog to follow.

      • Oh yes, thanks Julia. I’ve actually been following Sheryl for over a year I think. I like that she adds the extra’s on days her grandmother didn’t write much. It’s fun to follow along. Isn’t it amazing that the town is so similar to the days of the diary. It seems really crazy that she can go take photo’s in a place she knows her grandma was at.

        • Yes, whenever we go back to Jeff’s home town, it’s fascinating to me that we can go see the homes, graves, and other “stomping grounds” (as we say in the south) of his relatives many generations back. And it also was amazing to me that my paternal grandmother’s home, which I remember so well, was not only my father’s birthplace, but also hers. In only 100 years (a blink of time in the great scheme of things) so much changes! But people essentially stay the same, which is why Sheryl’s blog is so interesting. Though her grandmother lived in a totally different world, there are so many similarities there.

  9. I have my baby book somewhere (at the moment it’s gone temporary walkabout though). I also have photos of my Mum & Aunt as babies taken in the early 20th century. Sadly I have no-one to pass it all on to.

    • I’m glad you have a baby book; I’ve always wished I had one. My oldest brother, who was the first of four children for our mother, had one, but it wasn’t completely filled out, as I remember. None of the others of us have one at all. I guess mothers get too busy after the first or second child!

      Perhaps you can scan the photos of your Mum and Aunt to share online. They are bound to have a vintage look that will be interesting. You may have distant relatives who will find you via genealogy someday, and they might be very interested in the photos. Also sometimes local historical societies, libraries and antique stores like to receive old photographs. More importantly, though, you have them to enjoy now. Thanks for being here today! I hope you had a lovely day for walks today.

      • I have scanned a lot of very old photos Julia, and thought they were on my Flickr account, but they’re not. I know I’ve posted a few on Facebook before. I will look for the scans and see what sort of quality they are. If they’re good enough I’ll put them on Flickr & let you know. They start in 1912 with my grandparents on honeymoon. Then I have my Mum & aunt as babies, plus as young children. After that there’s a jump to the 1030s & 1940s.

        • Thanks, let me know if you post them! I would love to see them. I think there’s quite a lot of interest in vintage photographs now, from what I can tell. 1912 honeymoon photos would really be great to have. I don’t think any of the past generations in my family even had honeymoons. Interesting that there’s a gap there…maybe someone was too busy with children! 🙂

  10. I was the mother to three children before reaching the age of 25. I didn’t save many memories from their childhood, but am grateful for what I did save. I have no photos or written documents relating to memories of my childhood or my parents. This summer I will visit my cousin in Chicago. Her mother and my mother were sisters; and all of the family photos belonged to her mother and subsequently passed down to her. We will take whatever time is needed to scan these photos of me as well as my parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other family members. She also has the family Bible that my grandfather maintained until his death — the dates of birth are recorded for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in this Bible. We will photograph the pages. Also, through my blog, I share information about my childhood and general life experiences for my children to read when I am no longer here.

    • Yvonne, these plans sound wonderful! Thanks for sharing them with us here; perhaps they will inspire others. I hope you have a great time in Chicago and discover many old and new memories to treasure. Hopefully some of what you find will show up in your blog too! Thanks for being here.

  11. Love this post, Julia. What precious treasures.

    I have my father’s photo albums from his time in India in the 1930’s. They’re so special. He had a tidy hand, too, and wrote small inscriptions in white fountain pen on the thick black paper.

    I’ve started a time capsule for each of my boys from the day they were born, with the daily newspaper, a postage stamp and the outfit they wore home from the hospital.

    I’ve saved my theater memorabilia and photos as well, and hope one day, they too will enjoy them.

    I’m a minimalist in many ways, but these ‘paper treasures’ are so precious to me.

    • It sounds like you have some fabulous keepsakes. India in the 1930’s – WOW. I didn’t realize your Dad was there. I would imagine there would be a lot of interest in those things, even from a purely historical standpoint. And the theater memorabilia is great too. I loved seeing my grandmothers pictures from her show business days, after she first met my grandfather and joined the same troupe. I think the time capsules are a great idea and well worth whatever space they take up.

      • Oh, wow, what a great story, Julia. I hope you’ll blog about your grandparents one day. I would thoroughly enjoy that story.

        My dad did a beautiful job with his photo albums. I’m so grateful for the ones we have.

        • You are lucky to have those albums. I don’t know too many people of our generation who have such memories preserved. I wish I knew a bit more about my grandparents’ days in show business. I can vaguely remember some of the photos and what Granny told us about it, and have read some old newspaper clippings about the group they traveled with. It would be interesting to compare notes with you about theater then and now. I imagine many things are still similar. I just love live theater and I think it has something movies can’t capture, even with all their fancy special effects and million dollar budgets.

          • Julia, we’ll have to have a long talk about theater when we meet next spring. I would love that.

            I love the treasure of photos from my dad and my Aunt Alys. I’ll have to write a post one day soon.

            Sending love

            • Yes, I just love theater and could talk about it for hours, especially with those who have first-hand experience of it. I used to love talking to my friend Debbie about her acting years. You are very lucky to have the photos of your father and aunt. I will be watching for your post!

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