Write Family Stories

picture of extended family around a table in an album frame
image by Sean Lynn

“So many family stories lost,” I commented as we drove out of the cemetery in the desert of West Texas, “somebody needed to write them down.”

“That’s why we are doing the genealogy project,” Chris responded, “so they won’t be forgotten.”

That had to be the reason. She had already commented that no one else in the family was interested. But you never know when that might change.

When my mother died, I finally realized that I was no longer young, that the life I had known was falling away never to be retrieved. I found myself remembering those snippets of stories my parents had let drop but never fleshed out. Or maybe they did and I was not interested enough at the time to pay attention. There were hints of my dad brewing beer in a Texas Tech dormitory bathtub. That’s all I know of that story. Did he get caught? What were the consequences of brewing beer on a college campus in the Bible belt in the late 1940s? I don’t know.

My grandma told us (me and my cousins) of taking an iron bar and banging the head of a cat, killing it because it kept getting into her cream. Being sensitive young teens at the time, we were horrified, not understanding the self-sufficient farm economics of the 1930s; life was hard.

I didn’t write the family stories.

I didn’t ask for more information.

So many stories lost. Your stories may not sound like anyone would be interested in them because, they are what everyone currently alive has experienced. Ways of life change though.

Write the family stories.

What may be common now may be incomprehensible twenty or thirty years from now. Fifty years from now, someone may be writing a cultural history, or a school report, and your life stories could be their research. Publish them… or not, start a blog… or not, but at least start a file on your computer, or just a spiral notebook. Just Write them down.
Record the stories of the elders in your family or community and transcribe them. What was life like for them when they were young? What was life like for you? Studies show that children who know the family narrative are more self-confident and resilient and that the qualities carry on throughout their life.

You don’t have to do anything with them, just write them down. You don’t have to be a GOOD writer. Just don’t let all the struggles, emotions, and humor of the past get lost. It feels good to release those feelings onto paper. It is good for the soul.

Write the family stories.

Someone, somewhere, someday will be glad you did.

originally published at www.creativeprovocateurs.com on June 15, 2016.

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