The “attic” of people’s hearts


As we got older we would sleep later and later on Christmas morning. My four siblings and I, our parents, and any friends who joined us that year would all leisurely get up, find a big box of donuts in the kitchen and slowly gather before the festivities began.

About a month ahead, we would have received a timed agenda in the mail from my mother.  This is a Leydorf family tradition that as I was growing up seemed normal to me; but friends of mine have commented that it is not typical. But, my mother was a planner and perhaps it was a way for her to support my father who was and remains a very big fan of a detailed schedule and a plan. And in any case, it played out mellow and as a day of total relaxation and fun. When I saw a few “Christmas agendas” in my family scrapbook, I felt of pang of sadness that I can longer anticipate it in the mail. I did not think much about it when I received them over the years.

One high point for me after we opened some gifts and as we were regrouping before dinner, we would sometimes play a quick a game of hoops at the schoolyard across the street: my dad and I against my brothers Tom and Bill. They would sometimes break into playing like they were the Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team, trying to spin the basketball on top of their finger while they were considering their free throw shot, dribbling the ball in front and then around their back, probably breaking all kinds of rules of the game, but we would laugh so hard nobody cared.

Another highlight for all of us was our yearly colored group sweatshirt. My mother would pick a different color each year, buying one for each of us and our guests, plus by post, one for every guest who had ever visited us any year in the history of family Christmas’. We would wear our color all day and to the movie theatre later. Our large group would simultaneously stand in domino-like unison to do the wave across the seats before the movie started. I just remember laughing, a lot.

Nobody outside of my family seems to get this sweatshirt tradition. But we loved it. We reveled in our eccentricity. The final year of the sweatshirt was a bit sad for me. My mother said that she officially ran out of colors.

These memories came streaming back to me, by just looking at that photo of us in blue sweatshirts one Christmas morning.

Family and personal albums reveal the truths about ourselves and they portray the people we care about and love the most, like the “attic of people’s hearts”. They tell our family narratives and secrets. And they can give us insights into the fabric our legacy and how this weaves into our own way of being.

Revisit family albums looking for the pictures that stand out the most. Also, check your stories with those of your family members. You may be surprised how your narratives differ for the same picture.

  • Why are your eyes drawn to certain pictures first?
  • How do they make you feel?
  • How does each picture reflect who you are now as a person?
  • What dynamics do you see in your relationships with and between your family members?
  • How was the album constructed and what does this say about your family?

Here are three pictures that immediately caught my eye as I looked through family albums today. For most, if you click on the image you can see it enlarged since the detail is quite small on some.

My family waiting for me.

group waiting-8

My mother’s look of determination at the young age of 16.


The five of us siblings just before bedtime. Our personalities shine through.


Then there was this that may be a bit telling, about me at the time of my birth.


As I casually look through my family albums, I do see some family dynamics and a bit of how I came to be who I am now.

By contemplating where we come from, we may better understand our motivations as photographers, what we shoot, how we shoot it, and why it has meaning to us.

You can learn more about analysing family photos and the field of photo psychology at this link.

4 responses

  1. A great personal anecdote and an inspiring reflection about a process that can benefit us all. Good work, Dede!

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