Ponga
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Ponga

A Storyteller’s Voice Found in Decades-old Letters and Diaries

An old, yellowed, typewritten letter resurfaces and creates a context to wrap around family photographs

I’m always surprised, pleasantly of course, by who responds to my invitations to my Ponga digital family albums. There’s certainly no formula to it, no pattern, no particular demographic, but there’s always been an enthusiastic, almost giddy interaction by those who come back to me, those who leave comments and share stories, get it.

A few cousins accepted almost immediately, and left terrific comments, and shared some long-forgotten memories. Some of those interactions have touched me deeply and profoundly.

But the letter… takes first prize.

After 25 years a forgotten letter unearthed more stories

A few months had passed since my initial Ponga guest invitation was sent to my entire family email list, then, following an invite reminder email a month or so later… I heard from my eldest niece.

Stories aren’t actually hiding at all — sharing them is just a game of hide and seek

Letters and Storytelling

The storyteller who wrote this letter just happened to be my mother, she was 76 at the time of writing it in 1996. She’s talking about her ancestors to her granddaughter, and rolling out stories that only she could, and about people only she knew.

I believe her motivation was to inspire my niece to look to her ancestors for teenage guidance and internal strength… as grandmothers sometimes do.

Take an old letter add some photographs and create a place for family to share stories.

My mother was a Ponga pioneer. She knew the stories needed (and wanted) to be shared, so along with a family tree, some photos, and the letter she did just that. She asked my niece to engage, to seek out the answers hidden in plain sight.

I doubt that my niece ever answered any of the questions, but she kept that letter for 25 years. Now in her early 40s, with me giving her a gentle nudge, she’s interested in sharing — and adding to—our family story.

I could have transcribed this letter into the Ponga comments box, but why would I do that?

This letter, typewritten in 1996, complete with penciled-in typo corrections, is a part of the story. In digital form, it gives my photographs context. It may not be my mother’s audible voice, but it is most definitely her visual voice.

The letter itself becomes part of the story

This letter is my mother through and through, it sounds just like her, and is an incredible addition to my growing Ponga family album. The addition of more letters is something I am looking forward to.

Stories are told in so many forms. Using Ponga, I get to tell stories through photos, voice recollections, documents, links to external sources… and those all-important letters written by people who no longer can tell the stories themselves, in person.

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Victoria's Press

Victoria's Press

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Bringing families together with historical storytelling in photo filled digital presentations, safely, securely and away from the prying eyes of social media.