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Big Mama’s Photo Memory Book Becomes a Family Treasure

Updated on August 16, 2012

“Big Mama,” as we affectionately called our grandmother, wasn’t getting around nearly as fast as she used to. She wasn’t able to walk to the community grocer with her rolling cart anymore. And, when she wore a favorite floral print sweater that I had given her, it wasn’t as “pressed” and pristine as it always was. Big Mama, who wasn’t BIG at all, had always been so trim, spry and bubbly. Now it was apparent that her independence was waning and she was no longer able to outpace old age.

Big Mama knew just how to make each child and grandchild feel uniquely special. We all realized just how wonderful she was, so I got to thinking of ways to honor her while she was still able to enjoy it. She was from a big family, having 10 siblings. She had given birth to six children, who now had their own children and grandchildren. So I set out on an ambitious quest to gather info and pictures of her relatives and ancestors to assemble a photo memory book chronicling her life. I planned to present it on her 92nd birthday that September.

Big Mama's Memory Book

Big Mama's Memory Book
Big Mama's Memory Book

. I began by talking to elders in order to understand the timeline of the family. I was stunned when relatives traced her lineage all the way back to her grandmother named Adeline. She was born a slave and lived more than a century. I even secured a photo of Adeline. Big Mama’s siblings and their children sent me an avalanche of vintage photos of her parents, her brothers and sisters, uncles, nieces and nephews, grands and great grands. They sent me original photos from their albums, dresser drawers, shoe boxes and timeworn trunks in the attic. Many of the photos were fragile, faded and frayed. Two were antique photographs on metal plates. I was careful to copy photos as I received them since some were irreplaceable. I returned them as soon as possible to their owners.

I arranged the album in chronological order and included historical tidbits throughout the book. I had collected so many photographs that I had to buy a 3-inch binder to hold them all. I was so elated with what I had achieved at that point. I realized that I had to create a cover that was befitting of the treasure trove of family memories inside. I knew then that I would not be able to complete the project for her birthday in September, so I decided to make it a Christmas present. I began to collect swatches of scenic cloth depicting important images of her life. She was raised on a farm, so I collected fabrics showing chickens, cows and hogs. She always had a pet dog and she liked to feed the neighborhood cats. When she walked on a sunny day, she carried her “parasol” to keep the sun off her face. Being a preacher’s widow, she never missed church on Sunday. She liked hanging her clothes out to dry in the fresh air. You’d rarely see her not wearing an apron, and believe it or not, she continued to cook on a wood-burning stove and chopped her own wood until she was well into her 80s! I decided to use my limited quilting skills to create a custom cover for the book as an illustration of her life.

When I placed the last picture that I had, I realized that the book would never be complete. The circle of life that is our family will continue to grow and expand. As each new member of our family is born, so is another chapter of our book. We presented the memory album to Big Mama at church on Christmas Sunday. Because of her advanced age, she didn’t seem quite as excited about it as I’d hoped she would be. I wasn’t sure if she really grasped everything that was going on. But she took it home and as she browsed through it, the photos began to spark long-ago memories. Each relative who came to visit wanted to see the book and would sit down with Big Mama to reminisce.

I was touched by the outpouring of family support. The project allowed me to connect with relatives that I had never known. Some of them began to consider launching a similar project for their ancestors. And even though our beloved Big Mama is no longer with us in body, she lives on through our family treasure—a Living Book that has been passed on to me. I am continuing to add special photos to the album in honor of the new generation. And when I reach the end of my life you will find the memory book in the possession of my children, enjoying our pictorial history and carrying on the legacy.

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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      What a beautiful photo album and a wonderful tribute to Big Mama and the entire family. I am sure your family will treasure it forever.

    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 4 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      Thank you for sharing, truly enjoyable. I look forward to reading more of your Hubs. Love to Big Mamma...

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks! I started out as a small project, but it is truly a treasure for our family.

    • katyzzz profile image

      katyzzz 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      What a wonderful and imaginative thing you have done, we could all take a leaf out of your book. What a lovely big Mamma you must have

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      She was a lovely lady. who left us with so many colorful memories.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 4 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Awesome idea!!!! I am sure your family appreciates the tribute!!! Great Job!!!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes. There have been some who have asked to borrow the book, but I can't bear to part with it!

    • profile image

      Noelle Miller 4 years ago

      Awesome job!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      What a great idea! You really started something and it's a project that brings family together. My sister and I have delved into our family tree for quite a while now and we've managed to go back quite a long way, to great-great grandparents and beyond in some cases. I think it's really important to pass on our heritage and our stories to our children, particularly to grandchildren (grandparents have more time!). I decided when my second and third grandchildren came along (at almost the same time) that I would write a diary for each so that they could read later what happened in their lives, when they saw me, what I was doing and what the world was up to in general. My older granddaughter is going to have her own book about me and we are writing a story together. Family is so important; well done for such a good memento of someone's life - I bet she really enjoyed the reminiscing even if she wasn't excited about the book to start with! Voted up, awesome (not one I use very often!) and interesting.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      your cousins,

      Beautiful tribute and dedication to Big Mama! Awesome idea!

    • Decaturite profile image

      Decaturite 4 years ago from Decatur, GA

      What an amazing way to commemorate your grandmother! I'm inspired to do something with the old photos and mementos I have of my dad. Our son never got to meet him, so I'd love a way to share Grandpa George's life with him. I love Big Mama's story!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Go for it. It would be a special gift to your son that no one else could give!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This is a beautiful tribute to your Big Mama. I've always been keen to learn as much about my family members and ancestors. A lot of old family albums are lying around, some torn due to age, many of the photos coming off the corners and lying scattered. Your hub has shown me a direction to save these memories for posterity and passing it on to our future generations.

      Thank you.

      Voted up, useful, beautiful and awesome.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Rajan Jolly. Be sure to share all your important memories and photos with younger generations so that those memories will live forever!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Your Cousins - This is beautiful! I love personal quilts like this. It almost has a folk art feel to it. This is a great idea I might have to make. Beautiful, voted up and shared.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      That's a great compliment coming from a real quilter! If you do decide to make one, be sure to chronicle your experience and share the final product.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      That is a treasure. You have captured moments in time and others will enjoy them too. What a clever idea. I just might have to 'steal' it. :)

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      If you do decide to put together your own memory book, be sure to post some photos for us to see!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      This is very heartwarming and something that can be passed from one generation to the next. I think it is very helpful to know stories and know our ancestors..every bit of pieces of history helps! Lovely!

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. This way please to read and vote http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hub/HubNuggets-...

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks so much for your comments and for alerting me to the Hubnuggets nomination! As a Newbie I wasn't even aware of it. On my way to vote right now!

    • Terry27 profile image

      Terry27 4 years ago from The Place Called Love

      Your Cousins, what a beautiful and touching act. I really enjoyed your story. It is wonderful and amazing how your memory book not only honored Big Mama, but also brought your family together. That is a beautiful thing in itself. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us.

      Voted up and beautiful. On my way to vote for your hub. Blessings

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Terry 27, So glad that you were moved by this story, it is very special to me. I truly appreciate your support.

    • Terry27 profile image

      Terry27 4 years ago from The Place Called Love

      Your Cousins, congratulations on your Hubnuggets' nomination. I voted for your story. I also shared your story on my personal facebook page. Thank you very much for your support as well. :)

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank Y-o-o-u-u-u!!!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      your photobook is very awesome and beautiful.. what a creative thinking.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes it's very special to us. I am happy to share my story!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      Fantastic Idea! I think I may have to start one of my own! I'm pinning and sharing this!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Mama Kim. I'm glad that my Big Mama can be an inspiration to you!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      This was just fun to read..An inspiration that we all need.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Carol 7777, so happy you enjoyed it! You can read more her in my lastest hub: "Memories of Big Mama: Weaving the Story of a Lifetime."

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A dedicated tribute and effort. Big mama would be proud of you! Thanks for sharing! I share on FB as well.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for reading and sharing Big Mama! It's nice to be appreciated.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      What a wonderful thing for you to do. I place a lot of importance in family and I have photos albums of every year of our lives since 1965. I wrote a Hub of the importance of keeping family albums. I invite you to read that when you have some time.

      This is a beautiful Hub of what you did for Big Mama. I loved it.

      I voted this UP, and will share so others may read it, too.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wow! A photo album for every year, that's a great undertaking and lets you chart how everyone has changed over the years. Sometimes a certain picture may not seem important until years later when you are thinking back over that time period, realizing what a great treasure that picture is -- that is, if you can find it. There are many pictures of my Big Mama that I remember seeing, but I haven't had luck in locating them.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a wonderful and creative way to honor your Grandmother. She must have been very pleased.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      The book helped to bring our family together a bit as relatives came by to leaf through the pages with Big Mama and share the memories.

    • profile image

      Ruth Pieterse 4 years ago

      A lovely tribute. Voted up.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

      What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother's life! I can see that it truly is a family treasure as you have put so much thought and love into the book along with irreplaceable family memories and mementos. This is a great inspiration to me! Voted up and pinned!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Glad you enjoyed it Ruth Pieterse. Big Mama would be thrilled to know that her story is being read in South Africa as well as other parts of the world.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Stephanie. I appreciate your comments and your vote!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      This is such an awesome idea! I have been going through photos at home and have been really frustrated because back in the day people never put the date, or who they where on the photos! lol! its driving me insane! great hub, and fantastic idea, voted up!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Luckily I was able to date or approximate the age of most of the photos in the book. Try quizzing some of the elders in your family. They may be able to help. And be sure to label them right away--before you forget.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      How nice that your family collaborated on this project and you were able to learn so many about the history! I'm sure your grandmother really appreciated it and now it's a keepsake for the whole family to enjoy. I really like the handcrafted quilted cover--what a nice touch!

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for your compliment. It is such a pleasure to share this keepsake with so many readers. I will treasure it always.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This is such a wonderful story, collecting those old memories are even more important know, a time when families are so scattered. I try to write all my early memories in poems or stories but I really need to dig out the old photos.

      Big Mama's memory book looks fabulous.

      A very enjoyable read.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks tobusiness, Big Mama's book is an irreplaceable family treasure that continues to expand. We may have to start a Book 2!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      What a lovely idea. I'm relieved that Big Mama was still alive at Christmas time to receive it. For a while there, I was afraid you might regret not giving it to her for her birthday.

      Nice hub. Voted up+.

    • Your Cousins profile image
      Author

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks LongTimeMother for your thoughtful comments. I too am so glad I got the chance to share it with her while she was still alive.

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 3 years ago from New Delhi India

      Very beautiful album and very nicely written tribute to your mama. About my family tree, brother of my grand dad used to take interest and he had put record of last 300 years of every boy and girl in our family, but since his death, no one really cared to take his hard work forward. Voting it up and awesome.

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Indian Chef. Perhaps you should pick up the mantle. There is nothing greater than knowing where you came from and passing that on to the next generation.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      So interesting! Thank you for sharing! Up+

    • Your Cousins profile image
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      Your Cousins 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I was browsing through the book a couple of days ago, loving the memories that it evoked. Thanks for visiting!

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