Life is Like a Box of Chocolates…or a Box of Old Photos with Lots of Questions
I live in Belgium where a box of excellent chocolates is common, but knowing our chocolates are excellent comes through the experience of tasting them. You cannot determine how delicious the chocolate will be by looking at it from the outside. You must bite into it and engage your senses to really experience the chocolate. In the same way, a box of old photos needs stories.
As my granny and I were drinking our Sunday coffees, enjoying some chocolates and looking through her old photo albums, I realized that all of these one-dimensional pictures were vivid memories and experiences to her, but blank to me. I felt no emotion because I did not experience the things happening in the vintage photographs.
Obviously she had stories connected to each photo, and she assumed I knew the story. A strange habit of us humans is to think that the other person also knows the story! I understood that one day these old photo albums would be mine, and I would be able to point out who’s who…but I wouldn’t know the details or the memories. So nobody would care in the end. But, this is her life! These are her stories.
So I thought, I’ll ask some questions. I’ll taste and see…
“Where was this old family photo taken?”
“Who is driving that car?”
“Why was he driving, instead of taking the train?”
“Was there a train in the ‘1940s?”
“Was this your first car?”
“Did you have a driver’s license?”
“Did women often drive cars then?”
“Was this your first time traveling outside of Belgium?”
Hmmmm….I realized that I had never asked my granny questions like that!
So I went on, and on, and on until granny said, “Gosh you ask so many questions! Why do you ask all these questions?!”
WHY? Why do I ask these questions?
I want to know her and her lifestyle through all the decades. (She’s 90, by the way.)
I want to know how she felt when they drove to Switzerland and lost their way.
I want to know how it felt for her as a young girl to watch a movie in the theatre for the first time.
I want to know who my granny is and how she experienced life because she is me and vice versa.
But it’s not easy to ask the right questions.
The conversation can bring up good memories and also sad ones. It’s an art to relax in the awkward moments, not to avoid them and to bring the conversation back to an uplifting memory. I could tell she felt relieved when she could talk to me about her miscarriage and her eyes lit up when she told me about her first boyfriend.
That Sunday – with old photos, coffee, chocolates and questions – was the best afternoon I had with my grandma, ever.
She enjoyed being heard, and I enjoyed listening. For me, it was the start of creating Hellomydear.be where families and individuals can capture the stories of their grandparents and give them the best gift by listening to them!
By Karolien Emmers, Founder of HelloMyDear.
Karolien is the passionate founder of HelloMyDear. She and her team are committed to helping people capture their stories in a meaningful way. Check out their wonderful website and read her helpful tips for asking questions. Learn how to preserve your valuable family photos and stories.