Pregnant women or new mothers - as a rule - should not be made to pack or move. There really ought to be a UN convention banning this. Coked up on hormones that make you want to build a nest, feather it, clean it, decorate it, admire it and be happy in it... it is not very easy to be told you have to dismantle cherished nest piece by piece... yourself... against the urge of every fibre in your body.
In fact, if it doesn't actually break you, it will probably at least give you nightmares for months!
I've moved endlessly (14 schools, five states, three countries). But I have never, ever been as stressed out, panicked or emotionally fraught as during this latest move, from London to Delhi, with a three-year-old and a mewling newborn!
Between endless breastfeeds and mad dashes to the potty carrying a trousers-halfway-down-his-butt-toddler... I've hauled 20 shelves worth of books up to the loft... tearfully parted with cherished baby furniture, clothes and toys... tried to consume all the lentils in our pantry... and racked my brains wondering what to do with large collections of unwanted pens... unopened purple paint... little-worn lingerie and half-used bottles of specialty cleaning fluids.
© Anu Anand Hall
If you're like me, you have a fierce emotional attachment to photos (and LPs...and handmade stationery). The few rare turn-of-the-century black and whites; sepia images of your parents wedding; polaroids of memorable childhood summer vacations; and unbearably painful technicolor shots of big hair and pimply teenage friends. (Ok, less attachment, more loathing to those last ones!)
Yes... yes... I've been MEANING to get them all into albums...like forever! Once upon a time, that's what you did with photos. But then digital photography came along and now I'm really muddled.
Should I digitize everything and watch it as one endless slideshow set to music...(ready for any future weddings/septugenarian birthdays?)... NOT!! Should I get ALL my photos printed into custom made books so I never again have to worry about losing or damaging them? Should I stick them in albums (does anyone even make sticky-backed albums anymore? I hate slip-ins... why should I have to crane my neck to admire portrait shots?) Whatever I do, will it last several generations??
Having slightly mocked the American movement (yes it really is a ‘movement’) of scrapbooking a few years ago... I've recently realized just how bloody brilliant a concept it is... especially when you're a busy mother trying to create, as well as preserve, your little family's memories!
So after taking tips from my friend, Jennifer, a veritable scrapbooking queen, I set about paring down my collection. I found that if you discard double prints (remember those- lol!), as well as every out of focus shot, every monument, every person you no longer recognize...not to mention other people's weddings... you instantly have at least a third fewer photos!
In one frenzied week, staying up long past the kids went to bed, I patiently went through all 17 shoeboxes, filling an entire bin bag with rejects.
Keepers that I don't necessarily want to look at everyday (pimply years) went up into the loft in sturdy photo keepsake boxes. Those really special photos that must go in albums, I set aside to be brought to India. A good project while I'm on maternity leave!
After trying and failing to hire a safety deposit box and having nightmares about fires in London, or monsoon mould in Delhi... I reluctantly decided to put them in the loft, with especially important ones in the safe hands of a friend until we have space in our suitcases to bring them over.
So..... after weeks of jagged tear-fests whilst dismantling our little lives in E7, east London... and a very fraught dash to Heathrow in which we very nearly didn't make the plane... I got to Delhi with a giant stack of special photos, two CD albums worth of digital photos and several traditional albums in my rock-heavy carry-on....
Only... when I finally unpacked... the stack of lovingly separated photos chronicling some of the best years of my life... had vanished! The best old moments of my life with my husband ... gone.
I panicked. I cried. I searched the same suitcases over and over. It's my worst nightmare come true... (ok - part true. My WORST nightmare goes: someone concretes over my garden... I die and can't hug my children... AND I lose all my childhood keepsakes and photos!!!)
Distraught, I've asked friends to check in my cupboards back home... no joy. At one point, I was on skype in Delhi directing someone in my loft in London to various boxes, when the London video feed began to slide! The last thing I saw before the picture froze, was a dead-on shot of the loft's opening and a ten-foot drop ... (see... this is why pregnant or lactating women should not be made to move house!!)
Luckily, the laptop survived. But my photos appear to be well and truly lost. All I can think is that in my frenzy of tearful packing, I managed to put them carefully in a shoebox, and then I dutifully chucked the shoebox out with the rest of the recycling...(probably just before that mad dash to Heathrow)!!
Sigh. Oh well! If a few old-fashioned Kodachrome shots of me and my husband as a young courting couple survive into the future, that’s pretty good I reckon.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d share a few links/tips on preserving and displaying photos with you in the hopes that you will share some with me! The first tip being of course - don't throw out your most cherished photos!!!
Most are expensive!! Or tacky!! Here are a few good links for affordable, simple, acid-free albums (all UK):
My History offers archive quality photo pockets and three ring albums
I cannot get into the whole 9 yards of scrapbooking, but I do think their albums are beautiful and built to last a very, very long time! Try:
Don't even attempt this yourself... very time-consuming and fiddly. Here's a service that looks promising, though I haven't yet tried it myself (next trip to the UK!) called Mr Scan. If you're in the US, try: ScanDigital.
MAKE YOUR OWN BOOK
I've never tried this, but my friend Asya makes stunning ones online (it does help that both she and her husband are INCREDIBLE professional photographers)! She recommends Blurb for the print quality and customer service. 'Nuf said!
So the post-script to this whole saga is that I've rounded up those photos that I managed NOT to throw out. But where to put them? After some enquiries, I went on a very exciting jaunt into Old Delhi with baby strapped to my chest and bought some very tacky, old-fashioned photo albums (they're so large and heavy, I needed a pack mule to get them home). Watch this space...!