My Dad was 92 when he passed away in September 2016, after several difficult months in hospital and six weeks after leaving me a “Happy birthday, I love you, Vic” message on a social media app.
After his death I must have listened to that message a hundred times. I didn’t have any other recordings of his voice. I had some old super 8 movies… but all filmed before sound was recordable.
Then, Christmas 2016 came, and I was given a new mobile phone. While updating and installing apps to this new toy, I inadvertently deleted that treasured message. It was just gone. Almost five years on and I’m still heartbroken. I’d have loved to play that every year on my birthday.
My Dad, like lots of dads, was a storyteller, a clown, the one guy in the room who was always asked, “tell them about the time…” His stories were always told with a blend of the unbelievable and humor, with an unashamed splash of self-deprecation.
Those stories are deep in my memory now.
I’ve just created a Ponga Album, using the same Storyboard Album format as before, dedicated to the stories he shared with me, and I will be sharing it with my siblings for Father’s Day. I suspect they will have heard the stories many times themselves, but I’m betting they heard them quite differently. With ease, Ponga makes it easy for me to invite them to add comments directly inside this album.
It was at picnic on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland that I got a spark of insight into sharing family stories. We were enjoying a tasty fish-and-chips lunch with Ron, my 92-year-old father-in-law, when he shared a simple nugget.
“If stories can be told in the true voice of the person who was there at the time —that’s magic.”
We were talking all things ancestry. My partner, Michael, had recently found and discovered a long-lost cousin, Frank, in the UK. Frank had relayed the most delicious story about Ron making runny porridge for him and a few other children. Porridge, as Frank told it, was a treat for these poor post Second World War children. Ron has no memory of the porridge event. The other memories and stories that he relayed about his young life in England were incredible.
Ron is not a big conversationalist, not a man who initiates a telephone call. He’s more of a face-to-face kind of guy. While he was talking, the stories crossed over, from people to places and back again. His voice became animated with enthusiasm, and even more lively as we flicked through old family photographs. (With everything now stored in the cloud, I’m no longer at the mercy of local storage on my phone.)
Sitting across the table, listening to him open up, I thought, “I must record this.”
So, we’ve agreed to sit down soon and go through photos and talk.
I’ll prep a new Ponga album with all the photos I have in advance, so that we can record his comments straight into Ponga and the pictures that inspire a story. His needs to be the voice telling these stories.
Ron may be 92, but his ability to manipulate his Flight Simulator suggests he won’t be needing me to co-pilot his Ponga experience. He’ll be flying solo in no time.
He’ll be the Ponga pilot of his own life stories.
The sharing of an old photograph, and a memory, isn’t a popularity contest, or a “what-ya think” moment. It’s not about the number of hearts or likes it collects. Leave that to social media and random current event images. Sharing an old photograph, can and should be the starting point for a walk down memory lane. Or perhaps the discrete reveal of stories shared with one relative but not to another.
As we share the details we find in pictures, clues lead from one story to the next. Connecting the dots with context and memories we soon reconnect as a family. Having reached out to my tier-one and tier-two relatives, siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews, I experienced pure unadulterated joy. Their comments, remembrances, and reconnections have been beyond amazing. I invited my family to the storyboard albums I’d created, …Then… I remembered Myrna. The game was afoot!
Following these steps will help you get your photos in order. Once you have the physical artifacts organized, you can digitize your collection and will be ready to get your digital collection into Ponga where you automatically organize them by person and start sharing your photos and the stories that go with them.