Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Life Stories

Anyone who has been reading my blog over a reasonable period of time, or anyone with whom I've been communicating by email, will be aware that I get excited when I hear about other people wanting to write their life stories.

Many people, usually as they reach middle or retirement age, begin looking back over their lives and realise that unless they commit these memories to paper, a lot of valuable social and personal history may be lost forever.

Everyone has a story to tell - just as you are unique, so too is your story. What's more, your story is of interest to more people than you realise. You don't need to have lived an extraordinary life for it to be interesting. When choosing books from the library, I usually bypass the biographies of famous people because I'm more interested in the 'ordinary' people.

We all know that the months and years seem to be flying by faster and faster. Of course, time is passing at the same speed that it always has but we just seem to want to fit more into each day, or there may be many like me who don't organise their time very well. Whatever the reason, if you are thinking of writing your story 'one of these days', then please think about doing it SOONER, rather than later.

Most people decide to write their story to benefit, interest and inform their children and grandchildren, who generally are not very interested at this stage. If you are of this generation, may I suggest that you start to get interested - NOW!

Don't wait until your parents are too old to remember events with clarity, or worse still, until they are no longer here. Once you begin reading these stories you will have so many questions you want answered, and it will be difficult to get answers if the writer has passed away. I know, I have hundreds of questions I would like to ask my parents, but alas, it is many years too late.

Your parents' stories are not just about them and events long gone, they are part of YOUR life story, too. So many characteristics and events experienced by past generations have combined to make you the person you are.

Seize the opportunities that arise in day to day activities to discuss how things may have been different in the past - not necessarily better or worse - but different. For instance, my grandaughters were here last week when I decided to play a recording of a story that my children had loved, called "Badjelly the Witch" by Spike Milligan. As I took the vinyl record out of its cover, Zoe exclaimed "WHAT is that?" At seven years of age, of course she had never seen a vinyl disc and she and Shay were very interested to learn what it was, how it played and where the sound came from. Things like food, clothing, entertainment, transport, housing, jobs, holidays, and schooling are all subjects that can be discussed easily and differences explored. You don't need to be a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon for your life to be interesting to your family. YOU are interesting because of who you are in the eyes of your children and grandchildren.

PLEASE - don't let your story die with you. Pass it on to those who need to know.


Calidore said...

Amen to that Alice. I have regrets I didn't ask my Grandparents more too - must now make the time to ask Mum her story. What a wonderful and thought provoking post. Thank you.

Marlene Depler said...

I wholeheartedly agree!!!!! Get those stories on paper (or computer)!

Val said...

Oh yes, this has been on my mind so often the last couple of years. But how do you do this without 1)feeling like Jana Wendt on a mission or 2)making your family members feel like they must be ready to kick the bucket if we're asking all these questions?

On one of Dad's trips here a couple of years ago he got talking about being in the navy during WWII. My sons and I were so interested, and I said to Dad, "You've never talked about this before" and he said "No one's ever asked". And there Mom had always said he never wanted to talk about the war. Maybe he felt the time had come.

Alice, I'm going to make a big book (remember my new bookbinding hobby?) and bring it to California with me in October. I'll try to get Mom talking, she's the real custodian of family stories, and write things down then and there. Thanks for this post!

Motherkitty said...

I have been into our family genealogy since my son and daughter were in high school (high school project). That was 20-some years ago. I now have at least severn or eight generations documented. What I miss, however, are many personal stories from my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents, because they are all dead and gone now. Oh, how I wish I had taken the time to talk to them and write down their stories. Lost and gone forever!!!!! What I can do is write down as much as I remember for those generations to come. One day they will appreciate it all. That's what family histories are all about.

Thank you for reminding all of us how important family histories are.

HORIZON said...

That is good advice Alice. I agree.
I love to ask my parents questions about my childhood and theirs but l don't remember everything so perhaps putting pen to paper is the answer. :)

Sigrun said...

Yes, Alice, I understand. I allways asked my grand-parents and my parents for storys.


DellaB said...

It was only after my mother had gone, that I realised how little I knew of her as a person. I left home early and stayed away a long time with far too few visits over the years.

What I do have though, are letters I've kept ... which tell me quite a lot as I re-read them now.

I asked my younger sister about Mum - she stayed here and around the family much more than I did, but she couldn't tell me much more. I think it might have been an age thing, we were born later in mum's life and I think that generation was much more close-lipped than we are today. She died aged 92 in 1997.

PEA said...

It's funny that you should be writing about this because just the other day I told my mom that soon we needed to sit down so that I could ask her all kinds of questions about her mother...a few years ago I was able to locate the house my gran was born in, in 1892, and I also located the graves of my great grandparents. Now I want to find out everything I can about them! I will certainly be writing everything down. Like you said, don't wait until you have nobody to ask these questions!! Great post Alice!!

Kerri said...

Thank you so much for writing this post Alice! It's a wonderful thought provoker. I hope several people will take your words to heart and begin writing, asking questions, etc. and some younger people will develop an interest in their parents' (and others) histories, stories, whatever.
There are so many questions I think of these days that I'd like to ask Mum. My dad will be 90 on August 5th and is in the beginning stages of demensia, so it's hard to get information from him..especially since we're 12,000 miles apart!
I'm chuckling about the girls never seeing a record before :)
We finally have the DSL...just today!!! Yours is the first blog visited and it came up so quickly. It's wonderful!
Great post Alice!

Kerri said...

I meant to finish that sentence about Mum....Unfortunately, I can't ask her those questions now. She died in 1996. What a dear mother she was. I still miss her.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I agree with you on this point very much. We waited to late to get my father's story before he died...we tried to get it, but with not much success.
I have begun my story, but I need to write more for the children...It seems that I am going too much in detail and it's running very long. Maybe it will be as long as a book and it should be as I have lived a long time...And I'm not yet finished living either. *LOL*

We still have a few of those vinyl records, but no longer anything to play them on. We haven't shown them to our grandchildren, but we would get the same reaction that you got, I'm sure.

Tammy said...

Thanks so much!!
You are such an encourager!!
I may have a wee surprise for my 300th post I think it will be the 12th of this month unless I post a couple of times one day...lol!
my health has been getting in the way of much writing lately but things still run round and round in my mind.
thanks for this post!

Meow said...

I so agree. I wish I had've written down all the wonderful stories my grandparents told me ... what a treasure trove of stories I would have now if I had've. I have suggested to mum and dad often to write down stuff they think of ... mum has become a computer nerd, so has time to sit and type ... what an opportunity it would be for her. I loooove listening to old stories, when the world was a different place, and lives were so much simpler.
Thanks, Alice. Take care, Meow

Kali said...

You have hit the nail on the head so square and hard!!

I have regrets regarding my darling precious Granny whom we lost just 2 years ago....I can remember being very small sitting at her feet and being told stories...So many different and fascinating stories, including her as a young child and family as refugees. Also about her Mother who had silkworm and made silk?? I have been thinking about this next visit to Darwin coming up and somehow capturing stories from both my parents. They won't be able to write them themselves, but maybe I can record them somehow and write them myself later.

Thanks Alice. I hope you are having a lovely day. It's cold but SUNNY here today, and the blossoms are so beautiful on the trees!

Reflection Through The Seasons said...

What a wonderful thought provoking and inspirational post Alice. This is something that I’ve been promising to do for a few years now. My brother and I have talked about it quite recently and we plan to get together soon and make notes, its strange how he recalls some things that I don’t and vice versa. I often have dreams about the cottage where we spent our childhood, these dreams are quite vivid and I even see clearly how each room of our cottage was furnished, the garden, stable and workshops, its strange how these dreams are always quite similar and when I awake, I have this feeling of desperately wanting to hang on to the details they contain.

I am an avid diarist, have been for years (sadly, this last month has been the exception). I have diaries written in my early teens, where my writing is so tiny, I now have to get a magnifying glass to read it. I hope my grandchildren will find them of interest in years to come. How I would love to have diaries written by my grandmother.

Like you have done, I favour the way of compiling short stories of certain aspects of my life.

Thank you for this post Alice, very inspiring and just what i need right now. Love - Marion

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Ms Alice.... One of my favourite hobbies is genealogy and discovering tales of old and new. I adore looking at names with positively antique dates beside them and imagining what life would have been for them.... and you are so true.... when my great great great grandchildren look back at my history, it will be all there, on computer disk.... for all to see. I even kept all the little trinkets from my childrens first days on this Earth.... the days newspaper from their birth day.... the monthly parenting magazine, so they could compare parenting styles and tonnes of photos of our house and neighbourhood etc etc. Should be a blast for them to look back on. My grandfather (poppy) has kept diaries for the last 35 years... in quite fine details too... so I hope to inherit those one day and relive his life through his words.
Like I said, awesome post. xox

roybe said...

That is so very true Alice.There are so many more things I would have loved to have asked my parents and grandparents if they were here today. Certainly a written record no matter how brief would be a precious thing to have. Years ago I was a sales rep with a company and they had a slogan written up all around the place "write it don't say it" Memoirs are a definately an important generational link. Thanks for your insight on the subject.

Sonia said...

Great post, Alice! I totally resonate with this idea.
I interviewed my grandparents (for my mother side)in 1966. I asked to them about their life and about my life when I was a baby and as a young, too. Can hear their voices today (they passed away about 15 years ago)is amazing. I made the same with my Mom, I recorded many tapes and it's so lovely and moving hear her voice and listen her histories.... I think this is a precious memories of my family.

Grafted Branch said...

I recently did this (well, just my salvation testimony really) and found it very cathartic.

It took me 5 posts, and ends with:


I think there is presidence in the bible for keeping track, marking the place, writing the testimony to tell our children and their's.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Autumn said...

Wonderful advice. I accually did my life story about a year ago on blogger. I made the mistake of giving the url to my ex husband who in turn bookmarked it and his girlfriend found it..passed on the url and I started getting really ugly comments about some things I had done prior to the divorce. In a moment of frustration and anger I deleted the blog. Now I wish I had kept it. I may start it again though. Thanks for the push to write things down. This is my first visit to your blog but I will come back again.

Emma said...

You are so right. My Dad passed away in January, suffering early onset dementia, and my greatest sorrow is that so much of his story is lost. He led a fascinating life, some of which I only found out during the eulogy, and I'd give anything to ask him a few questions today.

Emma in Brisbane