Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Telling Stories

I have a lot of "jobs" as a parent.
One of those jobs is is to tell our family's stories, to shape our family history.
In our house, one way we do this is through the photo books that I've been making for about 12 years. The photo book shelf has now expanded to two shelves, and there are almost 35 books chronicling our family's (mostly) chronological order.

My children love these books. They love to look through them and remember things, they love to tell the stories of "when that happened" and "when I was little" and they love to look at their own adorable faces and the faces of our friends and family. (Solly doesn't yet understand why he isn't in the books that came before he did!) I've learned over the years to include as many pictures as possible -- even the "bad" ones, because even those help to tell the stories. There are minimal words in these books, usually just a few reminders of the event or a sentence or two explaining who the visitors are, what's happening, or why these pictures are important.
September, 2009 -- reading the photo albums
I am usually about six months behind in creating the books. 
Until this week, the last book on the shelf ended with June of 2013. Things were a bit uncertain in June. Sammy wasn't in remission. Our doctors were seeking out new treatments that would get him to transplant. I was scared. I kept taking pictures but I wasn't quite ready to make them into a book.

Last week, I finished the summer story. It was oh-so-hard. I knew that I couldn't stop telling our family history. I know that I have to keep going, somehow, to remember the good moments and the bad ones and keep our family moving...forward.  

The new book arrived this week. Like all of these books, it is so beautiful:
It was thoroughly examined.
In spite of the dread and worry that hung over us all summer long, it is such a happy book. There are so many smiling pictures of all my children, there were so many good things that happened all summer long. I really expected to cry as I paged through it. But I didn't. I smiled. The memories of those days are good ones, even though I also included pictures of Sammy at the hospital. The reality was that while we were focused on his treatments, he was focused on visiting the zoo, going to camp, making art and doing yoga, and fishing. His reality, and the reality of all the kids, was not about cancer. It was about doing summer-time stuff, about making the most and the best of every day, it was about living.

And so we keep telling the stories.
We keep remembering.
We keep on going.

(It doesn't make the next book any easier to create, however.)


  1. Phyllis, you and your family are amazing. It's such an overused word, but here it's the only one that seems to work for me. Thinking of you as I read every post and also after. xo

  2. May G-d give you health and smachot. Those books are fantastic I'm sure.

  3. I think that this period of time included the kids going to the movies - was it Despicable Me 2? Where Yael helped Sammy carry his backpack. Your photo was from the back. I'm sure that Yael especially will treasure that one. I will never forget it. Blessings on you, Phyllis, for creating all of this for your dear family.

  4. I love the idea of creating family books like this! I make a book every year after our son's birthday, containing photographs of his year-just-ended. I love chronicling his adventures, the holidays, the family time, the daily experiences.

    I'm glad this book was able to bring you and your family some joy.

    And I hear you on anticipating the next one.

  5. We keep telling the stories and so we keep going--just magical. It's what I love about people and writing and the power a story has to connect us, really connect us, to each other. You don't know me, but I know your story through your friend, Erica. And your story lives in me, your son lives in me, and I think about him, and you, often.

  6. A lovely idea. I also made an album of pictures of Ricki for each of her siblings as a rememberance. And so that her nieces and nephews not old enough to remember her will see the album and learn that she existed.

  7. I make photo books, too, one a year. It isn't easy, that's for sure. Like you, I let the pictures tell their story. And folks do page through them, over and over. And I love the memories, even the sad ones that must not be forgotten. Thank you for all the ways Sam has filled our memories.

  8. Oh, Solly's wonderful face looking at the new book with his zaidy. Perfection. And the hat indoors. Too funny. A wise insight, what Sam's reality was during the summer. Thank you for sharing and, always, thinking of you all.