I never thought about leaving my country. But life is not always as we planned and 28 years ago, my husband had a job opportunity away from home. And we took it. After all, it was only for a few years and we will be back.
As the plane was flying away from home, my heart was shrinking while I was controlling my tears and my fears because I had to be strong for my children. We were heading away from our big family to a different country, with other costumes and other language. My kids were afraid and brave at the same time. For my 8 and 9 year old children it was twice harder to leave because they were leaving their father, cousins, grandparents, friends, everything they knew and not by their own choice but ours. Was we doing the right thing to them?
As we packed we were sure to include photos of everything we could but not as many as we wanted. I couldn’t take with me all the albums of my kids, so I took a bunch of their pictures and family photos and left the others stored at my parents’ house in boxes. If only I had known how to do it properly by then…
The time passed by and we were not even close of coming back. And life was happening for all: graduations, weddings, new babies, celebrations, sport events… life. But we were so far away to share those moments. Our only option was through the photos that we could send to each other when somebody else was traveling. Emailing was not an option by then and Social Media concept was not even on anybody’s mind. The mail service in our country was not the best so we didn’t rely on it to share our pictures. Every time somebody came we took the opportunity to send our families a few moments on photos.. I remember when we had family or friends visiting and we took pictures together, how we had to rush to develop them, hoping there were some good ones. Sometimes we got beautiful moments captured but other times…. well… not quite. But we loved those pictures anyway because of their meaning. You see, though those photos, we we sharing their lives and they were sharing ours. We were part of each other’s world and that is how we learnt to appreciate photos. Their value. Their immense meaning.
In our of our trips to visit our family, I decided to check upon the photos I had stored there with the intention of selecting the more important ones to bring them with me. I cannot explain how devastated I was when I realized that moisture and improper storage had destroyed almost all of our photos. I saved as many as I could and had to throw away the rest with a shrunken heart.
And the years continue to pass. And we are still far away. Our children sometimes did not understand our customs, our beliefs. The history of our family and our traditions were at risk of getting lost before our eyes and that was something that we could not allow. So I started collecting the family photos I could on each of my trips. Each one of those photos that allowed me to tell where we came from, who we were and what their roots were. And although it is still a project in progress, their story is not so unknown to them now.
For those who migrate, preserving our essence and our customs is important for our own identity. Although we are proud of the new nationality we adopt by our own decision, we do not discard our own roots that identify and define us. And those photos that we share and we value allow us to remain close to our own identity and tell our children who they are, where they come from and share the pride of our ancestry.
Let us not lose our history because life leads us to migrate, whatever the reason. Rescue those photos that allow us to tell it and for those beings that are represented there let them stop being strangers in the box, for our children and grandchildren and for future generations that will follow us. In the end, we are who we are because they were who they were.
Mili Parra Castro
Pictures with Magic, LLC owner
Originally from Caracas, Venezuela, Mili now lives in South Florida. After retiring from her career as a computer programmer and immerse herself into family history, photo book creations and photo organization, Mili founded Pictures with Magic, LLC. As a Certified Personal Photo Organizer, Mili love to help people to organize and bring their memories to life under the conviction that every person has a meaningful place on this world, and a worthy story to shared.