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.