Posts Tagged record

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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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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Tell Your Family Stories

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” Sue Monk Kidd

You are the keeper of some wonderful family stories and history. Funny, strange, tragic, inspiring things happened that only you know about. Share them in a few sentences with other family members. We are not talking about revealing secrets or skeletons, just good stories. If you do not share these stories, they will be lost forever.

Here are some clues to get you started. These are just prompts. Looking at old family photographs will also help. If it is possible, drive or walk through your old neighborhood.

Where and when were you born?

Were you named after someone?

Did anything significant happen the year you were born?

Take a memory walk through your grade school or high school.

What teacher was in each classroom?

Visualize going to church or synagogue.

Where did you sit?

Who was your religious leader?

What was a family dinner like?

What was your first car?

How did you get it?

Who was your first real boyfriend or girlfriend?

Did you ever play hooky from school?

Where did you hang out?

What was your first job?

Who broke your heart?

Did something funny happen at your wedding?

How much was your first allowance?

What did you buy with it?

Who was your childhood hero?

Does your house or neighborhood have a ghost?

The day after Thanksgiving is designated as a National Day of Listening by Storycorps. It is a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Sit down with family members and encourage them to share their stories with each other. You might need to break the ice by telling your story first. Research has shown that children who know their family stories both the successes and failures are better able to cope with life as adults than those who do not know their stories. Stories connect us to each other. They create a bond.

My new book, Our Father: Discovering Family (WipfandStock), is full of stories. For each one that I recorded in the book, there are three or four that I didn’t include. As you recall one story, the telling will lead you to remember others.  Relax and enjoy the experience.

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Tell and Retell Family Stories

At the funeral of my friend there were wonderful stories from her children,  grandchildren and former students. She was a faithful member of the congregation for over fifty years. The atmosphere moved from sorrow to one of thanksgiving. I was left with a great question. Why do we wait for funerals to share these wonderful stories?

My dad was a great story teller. I relished the saga he told about his asking my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage. “Mr. Gossett (my grandfather) was a big man. He was already dressed for bed. Here was this big man wearing a white night shirt and he was barefoot; As tears rolled down his cheeks he said, ‘Well Carnell, if you don’t know how to treat her,  you know where you got her.'”

When I was in the third grade my family traveled to Spartanburg for an appointment with my eye specialist. My sister and I were walking ahead of my parents. I heard mother say to dad, “I am not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He thinks I am so pretty.”

For a short time when my sister and I were in middle school we boarded my grandparents’ cow. She was a gentle animal, but my sister, Jean, was afraid of her. One day Jean was missing for an hour or two. We finally found her cowering in the barn with the cow standing in front of the door. Jean was afraid to come out.

These are family stories. There is nothing unusual here. They are stories that bind our family together and we need to remember them and share them. The National Day of Listening , the day after Thanksgiving, was created for this reason. by StoryCorps in 2008. We are encouraged to tell and share family stories.

The family had gathered for our annual Christmas dinner. My wife had knocked herself out getting the house ready and preparing a scrumptious meal including the family’s favorite –her macaroni and cheese. She prepared everything except the ham. Our friend Roger gave me directions on how to boil a ham the way his family in New Mexico had always done. His ham was always so delicious that I wanted to try it. I announced my plan to the family and was met with unanimous apprehension. Undaunted, I confidently executed my plan.  All afternoon I carefully watched over my masterpiece and was eager to prove all of them wrong.

My ham was a disaster. It was ugly on the platter, the consistency stringy and the taste did remotely remind you of ham, but only remotely.  Although my offering turned out to be a culinary disappointment, the merriment that filled the room was spontaneous. There was no end to the light hearted puns and the suggestions as to what might render the ham into something eatable. Even my grandson’s girlfriend got in on the act. My son told me later that he had not seen my sister laugh so hard or enjoy anything so much in years. Everyone let me know that this was one time when father definitely did not know best.  I made certain that the ham was soon gone, but the story of this Christmas dinner and dad’s great fiasco will warm our hearts for years to come. There is nothing like warm hearted laughter to cheer the soul.

 

Your family also has a storehouse of marvelous stories. All it takes is for someone to start the ball rolling. One story quickly follows another. Be intentional about it. Set up a voice or video recorder. If necessary ask a few leading questions. Where did mom and dad meet? What is your favorite childhood memory. Where did our grandparents live before they were married? What was your first memory of Christmas? You will think of others related to your family history.

If your family holds family reunions, send out a request for members to come prepared to share a family story.  Another idea is to interview an older person who is reluctant to stand up and talk. What is true for families is also true for other groups. A favorite activity at our Sunday school class’ annual Christmas dinner is the sharing of childhood Christmas memories. These stories break down barriers and turn members into friends.

Stories bind people together. They capture our shared experiences. You will be amazed at how one memory will trigger another one.

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