something to hold

Do you worry that everything is digital nowadays and wonder if future generations will have something to hold in their hands that we touched? Everything seems to be on-screen now. Handwritten letters are rare, postcards almost non-existent and official documents are filed online.

When Bill went travelling he diligently wrote a letter to his parents once a month or thereabouts, all of which his mother kept to hand back to him when he arrived home and occasionally he flicks through them and revives a distant memory. Now, our children update us from far flung places by Facebook, which is instant but fleeting and will doubtless float off in the ether, lost to us all. Photos are stored on computers that crash or on free cloud storage with no guarantee of permanency and I have a pile of cine film, VHS tapes, cassette tapes and floppy disks loaded with memories but now unreadable.

I was pondering all this as I replaced some of the way mark discs (for the public footpaths and bridleways) around the farm that have faded or mysteriously disappeared.  I went past the flowering violets, primroses and cowslips and lichen on bare branches along a track that has been walked for hundreds of years and wondered how many people had walked along and noticed the same things, watched the seasons roll past and trees grow from tiny acorns to spreading oak trees. Almost imperceptible daily changes that we take for granted and yet add up to massive change over the years. So, of course we don’t mark or record it and the memory of how it used to be disappears.

making jelly prints

On the way I stuffed a few bits and pieces in my pockets – leaves, feathers and flowers (though I ate the violets) and used them to make jelly prints that I folded into little books as a permanent memory.

One of them is a snake book, which unfolds rather like a walk and the other has pockets in which to tuck collected things or perhaps photographs (if I get them printed) and an unfolding narrative of the walk in the back.

An evening spent in frivolous creativeness. Because sometimes it’s good to have something to hold. A reminder of how it is today, because it’s bound to change in the future. Though obviously only for me because my children will almost certainly throw them out, which I completely understand (I would do the same).

How do you store your experiences and memories for future generations? Does it really matter?


36 thoughts on “something to hold

  1. I am not sure that it is so important to capture everything, it seems like a modern day phenomenon to me. When I travelled in the seventies my family sent me out into the world and trusted, trusted me mostly. I sent the odd postcard but sometimes I arrived home before the postcard. And the joy on their faces when you arrived home safe and sound, now that was worth taking a photo of. Also I dont remember having a camera at that time, they were expensive, so you could travel or take photos but probably not both!

    1. I completely agree about capturing everything. Some people just go overboard – almost as though if they don’t photograph it then they weren’t there or didn’t eat it. Moderation needed as ever.

      1. My little Korean friend does this, she photographs every single thing she eats, with her phone, I asked her what she does with all these images and she looked confused. As though merely having them on her camera was enough. c

  2. Hmm…I, too, feel the need to create something to hold. I have two boys and know they are just not interested. Sometimes they don’t even open a card I give them for days! Why I bother, I know not. I keep hoping that later on they will appreciate the little somethings I did. A woman can dream, right?

  3. Oh Letters! If we all wrote even one letter a week how much richer would we all be. The problem is of course that by the time that letter gets there you have chatted or facebooked or texted twenty times even if the recipient is a world away. My mother always said address the envelope first and put the stamp on, then the letter will be sent. I have had an easter card siting on the table for days ready to be written and sent to my granddaughters. I will do it today.. thank you for the reminder of how important this is. And I love your little keepsakes.. wonderful.. c

    1. I love getting letters, but you’re right – it’s old news by the time the letter arrives. I must remember your mother’s good advice (I hate to waste a stamp so I’d definitely post it).

  4. My mother writes to everyone, a few letters a week, and they love it. As for the letters I have received, I still have some from my Grandmother and some from my Aunts that have passed away and I love when I come across them and read them, it sheds light on the happenings that were going on at that time, which helps bring back the memories. I am all for something tangible to hold and read and remember, just not every little thing I eat or see or do. BTW, I love the little card here and my children thought it was a great idea, so we will try it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Maybe we should all be like your mother and set aside time to write a proper letter because we all love to get them. Much more fun than just looking at strangers’ photos on instagram.

  5. Years ago, when I first moved to the United States I would write a letter to my parents every Sunday. I would choose my words carefully as not to worry them. My father would write back and give me self addressed envelopes with stamps when I visited them.
    I love your snake books, I used to make them with my children.

  6. To remember someone you just need one photograph. But to know them you need something they made and wrote. Best of all are family songs and expressions passed down the generations. . So your book is perfect.

    1. It’s funny that even though people bare their soul on some blogs, it seems far more powerful when I see a piece of their handwriting. No idea why. I love the way expressions leap frog down families – things our parents said seemed painful to us but our children think they’re wonderful and pick them up.

  7. I have just found your blog, via Mrs Ford’s Diary. Lovely design, photos and writing. I, too, have been pondering the immediacy of communication these days. Letters are thought about and it takes effort to write them, which gives them more value, I think, and I treasure cards and letters from loved ones.

  8. What a great post & project Anne. I think a lot of those same thoughts when I’m walking, especially in historic places – like when I visited London and then when I walking through the Forum in Rome. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps thinking of all the people and events that went before me.

    From the time that my daughter could hold a crayon I always had her draw a picture or write a letter to her grandmother & aunts. I know they appreciated getting something in the mail that wasn’t unsolicited junk or a bill and many years later, they gave her the letters that she’d written them for her own memories. Believe me reading what she wrote as a kid was a riot! I also saved so many things from her childhood – she used to have a neighborhood newsletter & again, reading back makes me remember those younger years and I crack up reading the stories.

    She’s getting married this year & I’m so glad that we have so many pictures of when she was young. We’re incorporating the pictures into the tablescapes at the reception to match their ages with the table number. But as I’ve been going through those old photos which of course were not digital, I was thinking that some old pictures just feel right being held in your hands & studied. Sure, my shoeboxes of photos are a mess, but I love sorting through and holding the memories.

    1. I bet those letters made good reading, though I wonder if she cringed at some of them. When my daughter got married we matched the ages to the table number though we had to juggle a few around as there were 2 years with no photos (I must be a bad mother).
      Don’t you think it’s fun dragging out a box, only half remembering what you’ve stored away inside? Not the same as trawling through folders on the computer.

      1. I’m not sure who cringed more – my daughter or myself. I’m afraid I might have to cheat on some of the photos too since there’s some that are different ages between Tim & Niki but almost the same photo – you know the one, we all have them with the food all over the face?
        And yes, I love looking in boxes that I haven’t check for a while. Some are treasures & other things face in the category of what? Like when I opened a good sized, heavy box when we moved to this house & found that the box was full of ordinary old rocks from our old house that my daughter had packed up…yes, we paid for 4 months of storage & moving by the pound for that box of rocks.

  9. I keep special cards and letters, my Dad is especially good at hand written notes, a couple of weeks ago in his 80th year he was given an iPad. It’s not the same at all. But times change and I am holding on to all of the handwritten letters in the meantime. I really like your memory book Anne, very inspiring.

  10. I really miss receiving letters, found some written to me by my brother and sister when they were at university recently and they’re so lovely to read/keep. Love your snake book.

  11. Such an interesting conversation Anne. Before my husband and I were married he traveled to northern Australia, working on big cattle stations for 6 months. Pre-mobile phones he wrote me funny letters and sent me little parcels from far flung places. Amazing when I think about it now. Of course I still have the letters.

    As far as photos go…both of my children have an old-school photo album which I regularly add to. I get photos printed every few months of family events and outings as well as everyday stuff. It feels nice to have photos you can actually hold and tuck away safely, rather than having them pile up on various computers.

    Sally’s comment was very interesting about capturing everything…so true.

    Great post.

    1. It seems much more romantic to receive little things in the post than a pinged email or text. I agree that it’s much better to have photos tucked away safely and lovely to share them with the children when they’re older in a way that doesn’t seem quite so magical on a screen.

  12. What a great post Anne and I used to think future generations may never know the absolute pleasure of actually reading a book that they could hold and there is nothing like the smell of a new book and without breaking the binding! re your cine film, VHS tapes, cassette tapes and floppy disks…they may be unreadable, but they can be recreated onto dvds so you can have the enjoyment once again of the memories!

    1. The trouble with transferring the old stuff is that you end up transferring it again – cine to VHS seemed such a good idea at the time!
      I hadn’t thought about the smell of a new book; you’re absolutely right. Maybe they’ll one day invent smellavision for computers.

  13. Lovely post Anne. My something to hold is often my knitting … I cart it about with me all over the place and there are a lot of memories tied up in the stitches of all sorts of favourite knitted things.

  14. Great pictures – love your little folded books! I too love letters, my mother kept all the ones I sent from my early years in Australia, and I got them back recently, but was surprised I didn’t much enjoy reading them, but was very surprised to find how much I remembered. I think the act of writing things down does keep memories. I have a friend I email long letters to very regularly, and this is a joy.

    1. I agree – writing does seem to reinforce the memory. Some of Bill’s letters were endless questions about home, which seems a waste of paper considering he was travelling through places like Syria, though in fairness, he wasn’t to know what would happen there decades later.

  15. Anne, I *have* worried about that! Example: A friend recorded our wedding ceremony on a cassette; people today don’t even remember cassette players. All our photos over the last several years are digital; we’ve printed very few. And now, I’ve just read that schools (in the US) are not going to be teaching handwriting any longer. I love your little books. Have you posted instructions on how to make them?

    1. That’s a big step not to teach handwriting. I used to have neat handwriting but it’s got bad recently because I make notes rather than proper writing. I might do a how to post later in the year.

  16. Loved your post! I try to write to family and friends as often as I can, not always expecting a reply! I treasure some of the saved letters, somehow re reading a loved ones handwritten message brings them closer for a fleeting moment more so than an old photograph.

  17. I was just thinking about this the other day… and you know what? I’m completely unorganized. All of my pictures are ‘somewhere’ and thankfully, that somewhere is not a cloud of some sort. Technology is changing faster than I’d ever imagined. I’m at a loss of what to do!

    I’m not materialistic at all but something tangible will always have value for me. Great post, Anne!

  18. Dear Anne,
    I just love your jelly prints! I am always collecting feathers etc on my walks so I will definitely give this a go.
    Letters….where do I begin? We have family letters and going back to the 1700’s and later photo albums so you can see we are keepers of the family history. My Mum saved all the letters I wrote from my travels in the ’70’s (seems like they were a popular time to travel from the comments above!).
    We are just investigating how to transfer some of our slides and old negatives to safe keeping.
    I have to hold on to the belief that ‘someone’ will want to look at them one day…..?
    Otherwise, what is it all for? I’m not sure!
    With love from

  19. I vacillate between being a hoarder, and then having a good clean out and holding onto the memories only – but i agree with you about the seemingly fleeting impermanence of the digital world.
    I have started sending semi-regular cards and letters to an interstate friend who is on maternity leave; we used to exchange emails fairly regular and still do, but I figure it is more exciting to hear the postman come and get a little note, as inconsequential as that may be, to show someone is thinking of you.
    plus I feel I need to support our dying postal service!

    1. There’s something special about an envelope dropping throught the letterbox when I know it’s not a bill to pay. I agree about supporting the postal service.

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