There are limitless ways to preserve our memories, the story of our lives. It's a matter of picking the method that works for you and that fits naturally into your life.
I've been struggling lately with my lack of focus in taking down the everyday memories and moments of my children as they've grown. The funny things they say. The adventures we share together. I feel like I'm keeping a running tally in my head — that I quiz myself on regularly — of the entertaining things my kids have said .... struggling to keep them straight in my mind until that perfect moment when I can sit down and log them in their baby books.
But time passes, even just a week, and I strain to keep the memory fresh. It's lost in the constant motion of my mind.
And so it is with parents of all ages, I find. We have so much going on in the busyness of raising children that we have a hard time holding on to yesterday's memories. They get pushed aside to make room for today ... and eventually tomorrow.
But after viewing a movie created over the past few years by a father
striving to capture the memories of his little boy's childhood, I am wondering if preserving the experience of parenthood - the mental snapshots of those everyday moments - is perhaps more important than the details, themselves.
Sure, I aim to be more disciplined about keeping up with my kids' baby books. But maybe I can let myself off the hook a little and come up with a "memorycatcher" that works better for me. Maybe it's a letter to each of my children, or a collection of photos from our times together along with a story for each. Jeff Scher's film of his son
is worth a watch. He doesn't catch all the details ... but he captures just enough for he and his son — and anyone else who shares in one father's snapshot of time — to experience the story.
"In the United States they have a Bill of Rights that they added on to the Constitution of the United States, and I think that should have been a Bill of Responsibility, not a Bill of Rights. Cause people talk about their rights, their rights — but they never talk about their responsibility. And leadership has got to have that, above all."
Native American elder
We may be the first generation of Americans that no longer looks to our elders for guidance about how to live — our values, skills, direction. What are we missing, as a result?
The Native American culture deeply respects the wisdom of their elders. This clip is Part 2 in a fascinating five-part series on "Native American Elders Speak Wisdom" on YouTube.
It's not often that your entire extended family gathers around one table to enjoy a meal. Once, maybe twice a year, at best.
So instead of sending the kids away to make noise somewhere else, or jumping up to clear the table ... why not take advantage of this rare opportunity to share some stories?
In her article, "Pass the Talking Fork,"
Odds Bokin suggests a Thanksgiving-day twist on the "Talking Stick," a Native American tradition. The stick is passed from hand to hand, or from storyteller to storyteller. Whoever holds the stick (or fork, in this case) also holds the attention of everyone else at the table.
The person with the fork will share a memory – a personal one or a story about another family member. Childhood stories, Thanksgiving-day memories, Uncle Joe's cigars, a family cross-country adventure, Grandpa's jokes .... whatever comes to mind.
As Bokin points out, children will get a kick out of the stories that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles share .... and they'll love it when it's their turn to hold the fork!
And kids (and adults, too) will be put at ease when they realize that "telling a story is simply remembering things and talking about them in their own words."
Put the coffee on! It may be a late night ....
There is a lot of chatter amongst today's writers, PR gurus, and marketing experts about how the Web - particularly social media - is changing the way we communicate. And from a writer's standpoint, I can tell you that the "school of thought" on writing that I graduated from 15 years ago is no longer in session. Everything has changed.
I could write several pages on how the technicalities of writing are being redefined, or largely ignored, by our most prolific and talented communicators today --- for better or for worse, depending upon your view. But I won't.
What's most interesting to me is how the content has changed. Young people today have a very different definition of "private" than their parents and grandparents. Facebook and Twitter aside, those of us raised in the '60s and beyond have been encouraged to "share" and "open up" since grammar school.
And nowadays, with the social media taking hold, "sharing" has been taken to an entirely new level. We talk about our struggles, our fears, our loves, and our hopes with an audience of online friends, family, and yes - even strangers.
It's not just about where we're going on vacation, it's about what we're feeling and thinking. It's the photo of the empty apartment after a break-up and a simple post, "Another chapter closes …." that an acquaintance of mine recently posted on Facebook.
So how does this apply to personal history? Today's youth appears at ease revealing the more intimate details of their lives on a public stage. With the birth of online communications, we're sharing more things with more people than ever before.
A lot has changed since 1910. For those born in the earlier part of the last century, the lines between material fit for "polite dinner-table conversation" versus "a diary entry" are a little more clearly defined. There were certain things that you just didn't talk about …. especially in mixed company.
So the elders in your life may not think to initiate conversation about certain sentimental subjects, but it doesn't mean that they aren't willing to share.
The personal-history interview brings these topics to the forefront. It provides a comfortable stage for both asking and answering these seemingly awkward questions that we avoid -- even though we'd love to hear the answers. I've found that the elusive "privacy line" that we all dance around with the elders in our lives seems to soften dramatically when there is a genuine interest in what lies on the other side. The life-story interview seems to demonstrate just that.
July is the most popular month of the year for families to gather and share their unique family history, whether it's a backyard barbecue or a lakeside party.
It's true that some families are more committed to these annual celebrations than others. And in every family, there is always a ringleader or two who leads the charge in making sure that the festivities go on year after year.
Months ahead of time, these dedicated few will begin sending out friendly reminders to make sure that the big event makes its way onto everyone's calendars. But no matter how hard they might try, they will never succeed in convincing every aunt, uncle, or cousin that this annual event is worth the hassle to attend.
I'll admit that I've missed my fair share of reunions over the years.
But here's the thing - our presence at these family affairs may mean more to our elderly relatives than we realize. They may look forward to this event all year long, cherishing the opportunity to gather with cousins, siblings, nieces, and nephews to share stories and rehash old tales of well-loved people and places.
Just looking around and seeing the younger generations of their family continuing the tradition and making time for each other is a gift beyond measure. It reassures them that the family they've helped knit together will stay together as the years roll on.
And the reunion experience is just as powerful for the newest members of our extended clans - grandchildren and great-grandchildren - though for markedly different reasons. Their grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in a "familial cocoon," of sorts, made up of a vast network of family members who also lived and worked in their community.
But the youngest generation of our families is living in a world where the day-to-day "family experience" is limited to mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents, at best. So it's a powerful experience for these young people to feel the power of family history - to listen to the stories of great aunts and uncles and understand their place in the magnificent web of their family heritage.
So if you're thinking of skipping out on the reunion festivities this year, you may want to reconsider. There is more to gain - for both you and your loved ones - than you may have thought.
Objects that we carry around with us on a daily basis help shape (and tell) the story of our lives. That's the premise of Pocketology, or the study of pockets - an autobiographical approach to relational art devised by Rachel Ellison, a 25-year-old art student in Toronto.
In her blog, "Stories You Haven't Heard,"
she explains how seemingly random items that we stash away in backpacks, handbags, and wallets all provide a great starting-point for storytelling.
I find this idea very intriguing. As I read through some of the Pocket Stories
on her website, it was interesting to see how "pocket items," even as seemingly mundane as a crumbled Kleenex or a container of floss, all kickstart a story.
Where and how did you get it? Why did you decide to keep it? What does it remind you of? What past memories related to this object come to mind?
A game of "What's in your pocket?" really would be an interesting alternative to the often go-nowhere, "So how was your day?"
Although not everyone will embrace the idea of revealing their hidden treasures, the concept of using things
in our life to jumpstart meaningful conversation and sharing of our thoughts and experiences is a good one.
So, what's in your
Tell your story using social media. Snipisode is a storytelling application for Facebook that enables you to type or paste in a whole story and then easily "snip up" the story into episodes.
You can schedule when you'd like for the "snips" of your story to post - daily, weekly, monthly, etc. and display as status updates on your page. Very interesting!
To learn more, visit the application designer's site
There is an emotional “lift” that takes place when we have the opportunity to revisit our life experiences through the act of reminiscing.
Pat McNees, a personal historian in Maryland, has written an interesting article entitled, “The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Activities,” based upon her hospice experience. It’s worth a read:http://www.patmcnees.com/files/Mcnees_benefici.pdf
In my experience, it's often during the 2nd interview session that an individual begins to “put the pieces together” and appreciate the path their life has taken. The moment I enter the room, I notice a lilt in their voice, a new animation to the way they recount a story – an “energy” that wasn’t there during our first encounter.
And this physical and emotional transformation makes sense to me. We need to know that our lives have had meaning, and when we’ve been able to verbally walk through the events of our past and see the learning and growth that has taken place … then we are better able to celebrate where we’ve been and where we are today.
There is also an emotional weight, I believe, that is lifted from our shoulders when we’ve been able to pass on our values, hopes, beliefs, and advice to our loved ones. We feel a sense of peace in knowing that we’ve had a chance to say what is nearest to our hearts and leave a lasting legacy for our friends and families. Regardless of our age, we all should make a little more time in our lives for reminiscing. It's an act of celebration, reminding us of the people, places, and moments that have defined and enriched our lives.