Welcome to my family room cupboard.
Pay no attention to that old dinosaur on the top shelf. It undoubtedly belongs in a museum but we call it a fully functioning television.
But I didn't bring you here to impress you with my cutting edge technology.
Please direct your attention to the three lower shelves. For the past three days, I have been obsessively editing, organizing, and bringing some stylistic satisfaction to their contents.
^ On the uppermost of the three shelves are our chronologically perfect and meticulously organized photo albums. Starting on the left, with the days before marriage which seemed to mostly consist of Chicago Cubs baseball games and family Christmas dinners, all the way up to my daughters' preteen years on the far right, these albums precisely chronicle every birth, holiday, vacation and party of our lives, not to mention plenty of tomfoolery in between.
Once everyone got a Facebook, the pendulum shifted to each girl keeping her own photo albums online, and my hard copy collections dwindled out. But someday, I may just catch up.
^ On the second shelf, in the black filing boxes, are tons of extra family photos - duplicate copies of my favorites and plenty of outtakes - mixed in with notes, letters and cards that we have exchanged over the years. In sharp contrast to the photo albums' razor sharp timeline, the relatively unorganized chronology of these documents makes for a fun little family soup. I find it endlessly entertaining to leaf through the assortment and find a teenager's contrite apology letter tucked in among her baby pictures, or a sweet tyke's first Mother's Day card filed next to her homecoming photos.
And on the third shelf, in similarly disordered array, are photos and remembrances from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and our many precious cousins. Sadly, my kids grew up mostly at great distance from their relatives, but during the early years, we kept the snail mail flowing with all manner of cards, letters, postcards, artwork and photos. I kept almost every shred. These relics now are kept in the same topsy-turvy order, with my mother-in-law's newspaper clippings next to my niece's ballet photographs, and my nephew's birth announcement and graduation announcement found back to back.
On the shelves in front of these albums and boxes sit an assortment of framed photos of my daughters over the years. All of them have been on display around the house at one time or another, but most of them were currently tucked away, In a wild burst of enthusiasm, I pulled out every single frame I could find that fits on these shelves, and love the burst the memories that these photos conjure up.
Crazy good times.
Crazy good times.
Now I should mention that before my big project, this cupboard was not sitting empty. These three lower shelves used to hold our voluminous collection of DVDs; cherished, can't-let-go-won't-let-go VHS tapes; and a handful of favorite video games. And we treasure those possessions too, because they tell us stories that we love. I haven't gotten rid of a single one.
But when it comes to deciding which narratives deserve to claim this prime piece of storage real estate, there is no doubt. The stories of our life matter most.