Talk to your parents, your grandparents, and write their stories down, while you still can!
An entire generation is passing away, with a personal history that began almost 100 years ago. Those decades saw sweeping changes in our world, and the memories are priceless. If you can get your elders to recall their own parents and grandparents, the record goes back much farther.Luckily I realized before my father’s death that I needed to RECORD his stories. I had not done this with my mother, and certainly wished I had gotten more of her well-loved stories into a form that I could keep, that would not dim with time!
I’d heard my dad’s stories so many times already, but I realized that I just wouldn’t recall them nearly as vividly or completely if I didn’t get them written or recorded, in his own words.
I actually realized that time was of the essence, well before my father’s death, because he was beginning a decline that soon made the stories fade and retreat into a place where they were no longer accessible! I hustled to collect fragments of his history, as I sensed them slipping from our grasp.
Once we began with our “story sessions,” I started asking him more and more about what he recalled from his childhood, and about his own parents, and I ended up with 25 or 30 pages of notes and glimpses into a time now gone. Many things that I did not know, had never heard before.
Little details, family history, fascinating insights into the way things were. I can feel these now as part of my own timeline, my own history, stretching farther back into the past than it did before. Each time I read these stories that I captured in his own words, I’m fascinated all over again.
Here’s a tiny sliver from his life, growing up in Oklahoma:
“Mrs.Gladlock, the math teacher, put the math lesson on a slate blackboard. You don’t see those now! You have to mine the slate [out of the ground], then saw it in half and finish it. Anyway, right on the slate blackboard she put the multiplication tables, all the way down. She would call on someone to put their back to the board and say their 5’s…I’d slump way down in my seat.”
Just a little recalled moment, in a classroom long ago, during a much simpler time when things were done so differently. There are many more where these came from, of food, playtime, transportation, economy, global events, neighbors and friends, pets, their first radio, even soap-making by the railroad tracks! Scenes from the Depression as well.
I really get a clutch at my heart as I witness this entire eldest generation passing away, and I hope we can gather as many of their lived experiences as possible, to keep and share and remember.