While some families see each other quite often, other families don’t see each other that much. Leading ultra-busy lives or living a state or two away from each other seem to be more the rule than the exception these days.
That’s why the holidays can be so special. It’s a time when several generations come together to socialize and spend quality time together. It’s a time to temporarily set aside the worries of everyday life and focus on what matters: family bonds and making them stronger.
What about you? Will you be seeing your family over the holidays and spending some time with multiple generations?
If so, I invite you to think about how well you know the more senior members of your family. Most of us have a few treasured stories about our grandparents, but what else do you know about them?
Chances are that your family members have stories to tell that will surprise you. Maybe it’s something they did. Maybe it’s something they witnessed or lived through. Whatever it is, chances are that there’s always something new you can learn about the family members who will be gathered around the holiday table this year.
Why not take the time now to preserve some of your family’s memories? Here are some suggestions you can use to do just that.
1. Decide Who’d You Like to Focus On.
While it’s a great idea to get to know every member of your family better, consider focusing on more senior family members first or those who will be moving away soon. Try collecting memories from those you may not have ready access to in the next few years.
Most people will be delighted that you’d like to know more about them and their experiences, and will welcome the opportunity to share memories of the lives they’ve led.
That said, if the people you’re hoping to hear from don’t end up opening up to you in the way you had hoped, please be patient and sensitive. Maybe they’re not used to talking so frankly about themselves or need some gentle encouragement before really opening up. Or in a few cases, maybe they don’t want to stir up painful memories. Either way, make sure that your family member is comfortable with the conversation. Remember that a person’s stories and memories are the most personal gift they can bestow upon you.
2. Ask for Some Help.
Many families have members that act as informal facilitators. They round up the family troops and get people moving in the same direction – perhaps to the dinner table or to rally support for family members in times of need.
Tell your family’s facilitator that you hope to interview some family members, learn more about their lives and preserve their memories. Chances are they will be sure to help make that happen for you.
3. Prepare Some Questions.
While it’s great to let the conversation flow naturally and perhaps go to some unexpected places, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare some questions in advance.
Preparing some questions beforehand will give a clearer orientation to your interview, and can help you if the conversation temporarily dries up.
What would you like to know about your family members? Their childhood? Their grandparents? Living in the places they did? How they met their spouses? Their work lives? Living through particular events? The best and worst moments of their lives? If they ever met any famous people? What their favorite hobbies used to be?
Whatever it is, take some time to think about what you’d like to know and ask your family members about.
4. Record Their Memories
Some stories are so good, you’d like to hear them again and again. If your family members agree to it, try recording your conversations. You can use a video camera, or even a simple application on your phone to voice record the interview. Otherwise, you might consider waiting until the family event is over and then taking some notes of what your family members said so you don’t forget the stories they told. Future generations will be interested in these stories as well.
Cherish Your Family
Make the most of the time you spend with your family. By collecting family memories this holiday season – asking your family members to share memories of different moments in their lives – you will be preserving their memories and making new ones at the same time. I guarantee you’ll be glad that you got to know your family members better and learn more about your family tree.
And who knows? You might just light a fire under someone to write their memoirs.