My Legacy Box arrived at the door today. Now all my important and memorable photos have been digitized and preserved “forever.”

According to the advertisement, the service “digitally preserves the pictures on the cloud, a thumb drive, or DVD. It makes reconnecting with your past as easy as pressing play.” The time it took to sort through the many pictures representing memories of generations of my family should be measured in weeks, not days or hours. Since the amount of your purchase defines the number of pictures you can digitize, it could take months to make the decisions, or just a few minutes, if you have only a few you feel are worthy of preservation.

Thinking of 2020 in the context of a Legacy Box, what memories represented in photos or videos would be worth storing for future generations to study and treasure? If we were truthful in making decisions on how to capture the memories of 2020 in pictures or video, would we include the national, state or local scenes of riots, signs, peaceful demonstrations and destruction? Would we add pictures of ourselves in masks or tee shirts with hateful rhetoric about wearing masks plastered all over them?

Unfortunately, for many, pictures or obituaries of loved ones would be added. Pictures of children attending virtual school might be kept, as well as recordings of conversations with family members who were too far away to visit, given quarantine requirements. Pets may be welcomed into the family and their images preserved. They will be remembered fondly in family history as the medicine that kept us sane. Photos of vaccinations being administrated to family members and lines of cars and trucks stretching miles down streets would also find a place among the reminders of 2020. The year was also the time for unconventional, yet creative weddings that deserve to be remembered. Babies continued to come into the world kicking and screaming and deserve several photos of their entrance to be put forward into perpetuity.

For many families, a series of pictures in which they surrounded the kitchen table trying new recipes and types of homemade bread, carefully proofed and baked to perfection, would be appropriate to keep. For others, standing in line at the food pantry would be their memory of 2020. Photos of parents and grandparents working from the kitchen table or bed as they changed diapers or tied shoes would be worthy of preserving, as would photos of a parent setting out to start the night shift with a mask in one hand and a thermos in the other.

The feelings behind the pictures are what we really hold dear. Perhaps the real legacy of 2020 is that we need each other much more than we once believed.

Capturing that truth will be the challenge of recording the events of most of 2020. On one hand we see people of all races peacefully joining together and speaking in one voice, asking communities to act on behalf of those who have none. On the other hand, we see racial discord that takes the form of hate for those who are not Caucasian or identify as Christian. Violence and death are the images of 2020, just as much so as the family dinners.

The story each of us leaves for other generations will be our story, not the story. The integrity of the photographer as well as that of the “keeper” of the memories should be of concern right now. We don’t want to be accused of a “fake” family history by those seeking family truth 50 years from now.

CATHY GRACE, Ed.D, is co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi. You can reach her at cwgrace@olemiss.edu.

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