I think there’s a chance I was the only person in the room who knew it was Uncle Ben in the second row. There were probably a dozen who knew in general who the picture showed–ancestors on the mother’s side–but does the name or an idea of Uncle Ben linger on earth outside my own mind? When I die, what will remain of him?
Memory. It makes us human. It creates our ideas of family, history, love, friendship. Within all our minds is a narrative of our own lives and all the people who were important to us. Who were eyewitnesses to the same times and events. Who could describe us to a stranger.
The other day I posted about beginning my family tree. Since then I have been steady filling in the blanks. It is a propitious time to start. Now that I am in full blown middle age, I am starting to think of myself more and more as a hinge between generations of my family. There are already people in my extended family who are unknown to nieces and nephews not much younger than me. Life changes; we move on. In the piece I quoted above Roger Ebert explains the importance of remembering.