Monday, January 26, 2015

Preserve The Past

Novelist, Isabel Allende makes a good point for writing your family stories. All the past history in your family should not be forgotten. But it will be if all you do is tell the stories at family dinners. Sooner or later, the elders in the family will have passed on and many of those stories will be gone, as well. 

There are multiple things in our families that should definitely not be forgotten. My writer friend, Terry Needham, writes about a terrible storm in the Hays, Kansas area that took a mother from her family far too soon. She froze to death when she and her husband got lost trying to make it home in a blizzard. The woman was Terry's grandmother. That episode is but one of the family stories he includes in his book When I Was A Child. He has woven the story of the children who were left motherless in a masterful way. This author definitely wrote what should not be forgotten.

Many of us will never write a complete book of our family stories and publish it. Even so, you can write these stories for your own children and grandchildren to read and keep. But nothing says you can't write a full book of your own family stories. Many have done so. Memoir upon memoir sells in all the bookstores and at Amazon. 

Every family has its share of tragic happenings as well as some that are humorous or just plain heartwarming. Write enough family stories and the reader will begin to see each family member more clearly. Was Grandpa a crotchety old guy on the outside with a heart of gold? Or was he just plain mean like my mother's grandfather was? Did your Great Aunt Gert dress weirdly? Tell off-color jokes? Or swear like a sailor? I have an aunt that was so unique that I doubt she has an equal anywhere. I have yet to write about her but she's on my To-Do list of things I need to write. 

Weddings should figure in the family stories you write. Did your great-uncle desert his bride-to-be? Whose wedding cake toppled over before the reception? Which child was a flower girl who refused to set one foot down the aisle? Who passed out at the altar while saying wedding vows? Lots of things happen at weddings. Include them in your family stories.

Same thing for funerals. Not all the things that happen at funerals are sad in nature. Funny things occur, too. They might not seem as funny at that time but later make a good story. 

Our school days give us lots to write about. Consider how many years you went to school? And the different stages you went through during those years. Funny, sad, scary and thrilling things happened to us during the time we were being educated.

Weather creates stories within families, too. It certainly did in Terry Needham's book. Memorable weather experiences stay in our memories forever, but you'd better write about them so the younger members of your family will learn about the episode. 

How about the places where you lived? Those should not be forgotten. Some folks stay in one place for a good many years but others have moved around the country or even within a small area. Some have lived overseas for a period of time. What interesting tales can be told about places we've lived and the moves we've made. 

If anyone in the family served in the armed forces, there are surely stories to be told. What happened during basic training or when deployed overseas? Did your family member thrive on the military life or detest every moment? Did he/she make lifelong friends while serving? Did they learn a skill that carried through to the remainder of their life? 

I could go on, but you get the drift. All the people who think there is nothing of interest in their family history might be surprised once they try to write about the people and places. Don't let them be forgotten. It's up to us who are left to preserve the stories and celebrate the people in our families.


  1. If the only writing we did was to preserve our family history and stories, that would be enough. These are the most important stories.

    1. You're so right. I wish more people would work at preserving the past history of their family.