Posts Tagged family

Why It’s Important to Record Your Family Stories – ethicsdaily.com

Why It's Important to Record Your Family Stories | Mitch Carnell, Storytelling, Family, Memory, Remembering, National Day of Listening

If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you, Carnell says.

Who was the funniest person in your family? Who was the most serious? Who was the caretaker? Who was the prankster?

Family stories are important. They tell who you are and where you came from.

My grandfather had the greatest laugh I had ever known until our son, Michael, came along. His laughter can light up the room.

My sister is the caretaker. She mothers everyone. Cousin Virgil could spin an unbelievable yarn. Uncle Calvin was the optimist. Daughter, Suzanne, could compete with my dad for being tenacious. The two of them were thicker than thieves.

You haven’t experienced anything as ridiculous as listening to my great-nephew, Justin, talking about his love affair with bologna. I hold the family record for preparing the worst ever Christmas ham.

I have a prized family heirloom. It is a record of the births and deaths of my father’s brothers and sisters in my grandmother’s handwriting on a parchment scroll. It was rescued in the nick of time from under my uncle’s house.

The record starts in 1888 with my grandparents’ wedding on Sept. 20. My dad took it with him to prove his eligibility for Social Security benefits. It made the rounds of the office before he got it back.

Why are these things important? These stories tell us who we are. If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you.

Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, is the National Day of Listening. It was started by StoryCorps in 2008 as a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Where did your family come from? What brought them here?

My friend, Carl, tells the most wonderful stories about his father, who was one of the first highway patrolmen in Texas. I keep urging Carl to record his stories; otherwise, they will disappear with him. I would buy his book.

You may think that your family’s history is dull, and no one would be interested. Think again.

When I was writing my book, “Our Father: Discovering Family,” and was about to give up on the project, my wife said, “You have got to finish this at least for your grandchildren.” I finished it, and one of the reviewers said, “His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will treasure this.”

Of course, you can spend Black Friday shopping, but sitting with relatives, friends, fellow church members or civic club members and recalling and recording shared moments will prove to be much more meaningful. Try it with some older members of your church.

When I was about 9 years old, we were in Spartanburg, South Carolina, walking to the office of my ophthalmologist. I was a few paces in front of my parents. I heard my mother say to dad, “I’m not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He has always thought that I was so pretty.”

My late wife, Liz, was such a procrastinator that my sister told her, “Liz, you will be late to your own funeral.” As we were riding in the limo to her funeral, my sister said, “Mitch, look at your watch.” We were 10 minutes late.

Do I want that story to die with me? No, absolutely not.

When my children were small, we were driving to my Uncle Calvin’s funeral. We passed a small country church with a sign out front that read, “Revival in progress. Come and be revived.” Michael spoke up front the back seat and exclaimed, “Daddy, that’s where we can take Uncle Calvin.”

I never tired of hearing my dad talk about his asking my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage.

My grandfather was a big man, already dressed for bed in a nightshirt and barefoot. “There he was with tears flowing down his cheeks. ‘Well, Carnell,’ he said, ‘if you don’t know how to treat her, you know where you got her.'”

Your family stories are just as valuable as mine. Take some time. Laugh a little. Tell the stories. Be sure the voice recorder or video camera is turned on.

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Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

I am holding onto my theme for the New Year. Gratitude sums up how I feel about my life. I have so much to be grateful for. All I need do is look around me and I know that I am blessed. I have a loving wife, children and grandchildren that I am proud of, a sister and brother-in-laws that bring joy, and nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews that are wonderful. I have friends that keep me centered and that spur my spiritual and mental growth. They are wonderful story tellers. I am surrounded by creative people. My neighbors are thoughtful and kind people.

The church I attend has sustained me through the deep valleys in my life. The writing group I attend encourages me to try new things. Although no one enjoys going to see the doctor, we like and trust ours. Brandy and Jan, care givers for Carol and helpers to me, are simply wonderful.

My friend, Dr. Monty Knight, recently said when speaking of the motion he has lost in his right arm, “I am not unhappy that I can no longer do these things. I am happy that I got to do them.”

As another year approaches I want to develop an attitude of gratitude and practice it more lavishly. For one who was not supposed to survive, I am here looking forward to what lies ahead. Yes, there are still things on my bucket list, but I am grateful for the buckets I have already filled and for all of those wonderful people that helped me fill them.

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Thanksgiving in Lincolnton: A Family Story

163001_10150109229056614_7707360Dwayne and Donna_nMy sister, Jean, and brother-in-law, John,John Wallace and Jean celebrate Thanksgiving on the Sunday before the official day because their sons and their families have other obligations on the big day. Jan drove Carol and me to Lincolnton, North Carolina for the annual event.

The food was wonderful and over-flowing, but the presence of family and friends provided the real joy. The three of us from Charleston and one friend, Vegas, from Charlotte were lost in a sea of Donald Trump disciples all wearing his trademark shirts. We took our beatings with humility. Most of this was for the torture of Liz, Wesley’s girlfriend, who works for Green Peace and is a staunch Democrat. She could not be present for the beat down or so she claimed. Wesley is my Republican grandnephew who is working his way up through the Deneise and Wesleynew Trump Swamp in Washington. I am rooting for him to become the most  important, “Deplorable.”

There was real joy around Allison, my grandniece, and her boyfriend, Jimmy, buying their first house. Allison is a history teacher in Hickory, and Jimmy is a police officer in Charlotte. Justin, grandnephew, has just finished trimming his house with stone. He did most of the work himself. Everyone gazed with pride at the pictures.

This is the real America. Megan, a young vibrant Methodists Youth Minister, led in grace as we all formed a circle and held hands. Megan, better known as Pest, is also my grandniece. Later there were Corn-hole games in the front yard.

The obvious devotion that Darrel and Dwayne and their families show to my sister and brother-in-law speaks volumes about the love that glues this family together. Before we left everyone was treated to a hug and an, “I love you.” Jean and Bunky have established a loving, kind oasis in a world of Chaos. We are privileged to be a part of it. Thank you. The first picture is Dwayne and Donna. The second picture is Jean and John. The third is Denise and Wesley.

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Tell Your Story. Celebrate National Listening Day

November 25 better known as Black Friday is also National Listening Day. This is a day to tell and record family stories. This gives a great alternative to spending the day or wee small hours of the night in the mall. StoryCorps started the event which has been widely celebrated and appreciated.

I am regretful that when I had the opportunity I did not pay attention to all those family stories freely shared at reunions, funerals, and other get–togethers. The ones I do remember enrich my life.

My friend Bob is writing his memoir. He sometimes reads portions to Carol, Brandy and me. What a treat that has become as he shares details of his life with us. Remember you are not limited by who constitutes family. It can be a group of friends, a church group or a social group as well as actual family members.

Record the stories if possible. Use a voice recorder, a video recorder or pen and paper. We all remember stories. As you remember one bit of information, dozens more will rush in. I recently wrote my spiritual journey, Our Father: Discovering Family, which became a book. The problem quickly became what to leave out instead of what to include. I was overwhelmed by memories.

A very important point is that your story is your story. Your sister, brother, mother, father, aunt or cousin will remember it differently, but then it is their story not your story. Of course you can make factual corrections when necessary. The important thing is to tell the stories and record them. Stories make us who we are. They span generations.

This morning my son asked me, “When did I get my first Lionel Train and where did it come from?” Those questions sent me back down wonderful memory lanes. That train was more than forty-five years ago. Luckily I made voice recording of all those early Christmas mornings to send to the missionary grandparents who were in the Philippines at the time, but they were on a reel to reel tape recorder. I hope that recorder is still in the attic. That quest will bring more memories.

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