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Our Boxes of Memories

Our Boxes of Memories

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Blended. What a strange way to describe my family, but there it is. We are what is known as a "blended family." One minute, we were two separate families, each consisting of a parent, daughter, and son, and then we became one big, happy, but "blended," family. I have heard the saying, and I am sure you have, too, "a picture is worth a thousand words." But what do you do with all those pictures of your former life when you are trying to build a new life? I have heard many different responses and loads of advice on the subject. Some say to throw them out; why do you have to be reminded of your past? Others advise to keep them for the children. Quite honestly, if there were no children involved, it would certainly make the decision on what to do with all the pictures, cards and mementos a whole lot easier.

My husband feels obligated to hold on to things he feels the children will appreciateIn our house, there have been two basic approaches: his and mine. My husband is a saver, has boxes and boxes of mementos, and feels obligated to hold on to things he feels the children will appreciate as they get older. To him, it is a testimonial to the truth. He loved their mother and tried hard to keep things together for them. I, on the other hand, know that my children will not choose to grace the walls in their future homes with wedding pictures of their parents who were divorced. They will not feel joy in reading old love letters and cards sent between parents that didn't grow old together.

Even if you choose to toss the pictures, you can never quite completely erase the past. How can you tell your children that you do not have any pictures of their birth, brit milah, first birthday, upsherin, since your former spouse was in them and it would be too "weird" to keep them around in your new home? Kindergarten graduation, oops, sorry, had to erase that video… too many memories to deal with. Oh, your brit milah, sorry, had to cut those pictures up, but trust me, you looked really cute. Somehow I don't think my kids would buy it.

When you are dealing with a "Brady Bunch" existence like ours, you have to be more creative, practical and sensitive to all the parties involved. My kids, like so many others, are picture lovers. They haul out the boxes of pictures to show their friends every chance they get. The fact is, the children have less inhibition about the whole family situation than we adults have. My children see nothing wrong with showing pictures of their "other" Dad, stepsiblings, or their stepsiblings' mother! To them, it is a natural part of their existence. I think it makes them feel special in a way.

In my fantasies, I see myself schlepping the boxes out into a big pit and setting fire to them all, erasing the past I had before I met my husband and his past before meeting me, but my reality is much different. Although it is painful to realize that my husband and I each had a past before we met, and I would have preferred it if my fairy tale started and ended with the same man, we are who we are because of what we have gone through. We fit so well because of our pasts, and after years together, I realize the importance of embracing that past. I have learned so much about the man I am married to by seeing him as he was. Seeing him as a new father to his children and the joy on his face in the first pictures with his daughter and son are special glimpses into what has made him the man he is today. Although I was not there to share those particular moments, I can now share his joy in remembering it.

I fish out the boxes and throw just a few more things awayTo tell you the truth, we each came to the marriage with very large boxes of memories that have now been over taken by newer memories. As the years have passed and our shared memory troves have increased, the memory boxes of the past have gradually decreased. Each passing year, I fish out the boxes and throw just a few more things away. Those things that, at one time, seemed so precious have somehow lost their meaning and no longer have a place in our lives or in our hearts. We still have our boxes, but they are now very small and tucked deep into the storage closet under our stairs… just a few things for the children and grandchildren should they want them some day.

Susie Benzaquen is a mom living a real life "Yours, Mine and Ours." Her writing focuses on the challenges and rewards her family has faced over the years in blending their family into one. Susie immigrated to Israel several years ago and along with her husband is raising all of their eight children there.
Adapted from an article originally published in The Jewish Press.
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Anonymous Buenos Aires, Argentina July 30, 2008

blended families Great article. It describes a new way of life. It`s difficult at the very beginning but easy and pleasant in the end. Children can prove that a parents not only the one that gives you birth but also the one who shares life with you. When you divorce they feel so sad and discouraged until they meet and get acquainted with their stepparent. And it`s true; you do your best to make this new marriage work. Reply

Yehudis July 17, 2008

boxes of memories how true and how beautifully expressed. A divorce, a new marriage - but the memories are still there. You wrote with humor and precision - like you read my mind! Reply

Susie Benzaquen June 23, 2008

post from the writer I agree whole hardily with the comments above. My point was that the memories can never be erased and embracing the past with it's memories has helped me create a very special life with my husband. "How can you tell your child............." Destroying the mementos is only a fantasy but the reality is far different.

I appreciate all the comments on this article. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA June 23, 2008

How about taking them to a professional photograph Professional photographers can "touch up" photos today, if you really want to show your child the photos but don't want your husband in them. It's an extreme measure, but if some of the pictures were done professional, they can be touched up with no trace of their father. I think it's a drastic step, you did love your husband at one time, and the two of you created the child you love. Perhaps you can keep that in mind. It doesn't help your child to see so much enmity between the people who created him/her. You don't have to hang the photos, but to not show the pictures to your child is unfair, and ultimately unkind. I am sure it is hard to move on, especially if the divorce was not amicable, but you show your child a maturity that will be a benefit to her or him in the long run. You can say, we don't each other anymore, but we did love each other when we married, and we loved each other to create a child together Reply

Ann June 22, 2008

My child's photos are precious. So is his father. I was married for 17 years and then I got divorced. I didn't hate the man, I just could not live with the abuse. He honestly didn't mean any harm, though. We rarely speak, but any photos with my child in them are precious to me. I don't care who else is in the photos. In fact, my parents had a family portrait done when the baby was small. It includes the baby's father and that portrait hangs in my living room, flanked by photos of my mother, my grandmother, and my kid's high school graduation photo.

Why not? That face was part of my life for 17 years. I don't disown it. We did a lot of learning together.

And of course I never divorced my mother inlaw, or my sisters and brothers in law, or my nieces and nephews who are my child's cousins and whom he loves dearly.

That is all part of who we have become. I can't imagine wanting to hide it. And my child loves his father. I believe in honoring his father to him, because that honors half of who the child is as well Reply

Jessica Klein Levenbrown Los Angeles, CA June 22, 2008

children of divorce As a child of divorced parents, who in turn divorced, remarried and blended two families, I empathize with what you describe. Nonetheless, from personal experience as a stepchild and as a parent and stepparent, I urge you not to throw out the pictures. Your memories are one thing, but your children long for knowledge of a time their parents were together. I know that memories of a bad marriage can be painful for parents and even for children, but your kids -- whether you like it or not -- have a piece of their absent parents in their hearts, souls and DNA. I personally believe that giving them permission to love their absent parents also allows them to better love themselves. We're constantly told by therapists to remind our children that we love them, and that the divorce wasn't their fault. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and can show them that it's okay for them to hold on to a piece of the past - which, in fact, is a piece of themselves. Reply

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