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Creating Memories -- Connecting the Generations

Posted Oct 16, 2008, updated Dec 08, 2008.

Creating Memories -- Connecting the Generations

Creating Memories -- Connecting the Generations

How often have you wondered about your ancestors – who they were, how they felt about the times in which they lived, what made them happy or sad, what hardships they faced in raising a family, or what hopes and dreams they had? You can’t take for granted that older family members will be there “tomorrow” to talk with or that you’ll be around to share memories of your childhood with your own children.

Start today to preserve your family’s history and personalities. You can begin by collecting oral biographies of family members and friends. All you need is a notebook and pen, or a tape recorder. Then, create a few questions to start off the interview. Make this a family project by getting others involved in thinking up questions ahead of time. You might ask questions such as, “Do you remember any members of your family who were real “characters”? Or “Tell us about your favorite game you liked to play as a child.”

Some of you may be saying that your family wouldn’t be interested. Maybe they aren’t interested now, but when someone is gone, the stories and experiences not shared are lost forever.

You can begin yourself to preserve your family’s own life history by doing the following:

  • Come up with your own set of questions that you can answer about your own life. Put your answers down on paper or record them. You don’t have to be a great writer or storyteller to do this. You may be able to find a special book with questions already written where all you have to do is record your answers in the book. Ask at your local library or bookstore.
  • Begin a journal and encourage other members of your family to do the same.
  • Record stories you hear at family gatherings. Holidays and reunions are ideal times to do your collecting because a story from one person often triggers another person to share one.
  • Pull out some old photos and write names and dates on the back. Put them in an album and include a few comments beside the picture in the album. Make sure you number the photo lightly on the front and have the same corresponding number on your note just in case the two get separated.
  • Share a special story behind a family “treasure” that you are planning to give to a young family member. Keeping the story alive associated with the object is often as valuable to a family as the object itself.
  • Create a family memory book by giving each person pages in a scrapbook to fill with objects that trigger memories for them. Then put each family member’s pages together. Younger children can do this, too, with a little help. Your family will be strengthened through your efforts.

When you thought I wasn’t looking…

  • I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.
  • I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.
  • I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that little things can be special in life.
  • I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
  • I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.
  • I felt you kiss me goodnight and I felt safe and loved.
  • I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.
  • I saw how you handled responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.
  • I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.
  • I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
  • I learned most of life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and productive person when I grow up.
  • I looked at you and wanted to say, “Thanks for all the things I saw when you weren’t lookin. "

Resources: Building Family Strengths (1995). University of Illinois Extension/4-H Publication

Come to the Table: A Celebration of Family Life (1999). Doris Christopher.

See also: Family Rituals and Traditions

Editor: Debbie McClellan, Extension Educator, Family Life, Effingham Center

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