Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pursue Those Family Stories!

I've been too busy lately to write much about writing (I guess my other blog gets more of my attention), but here are some excerpts from my next column on eGenerations (it won't appear there for a week or so).

I’ve noticed a reluctance among Baby Boomers to write their life stories. Some are too busy living, adding new chapters to their lives, trying to find ways to remain young forever. All that is fine, but as a person who is facing many of the realities of old age now, I predict that many Boomers will get around to writing their life stories eventually. It’s never too early to begin.

It’s never too late, either. How about Mom, Dad, that favorite aunt or uncle or grandparent? You’ve probably heard their stories of growing up in the “old country,” their immigration tales, their stories of military service, love and loss, hardships and successes. You may have been a reluctant listener in your youth, but do you want those stories to die with their tellers? Why not help your older relatives to write or record their stories? As interest in genealogy increases, the younger generations will treasure those stories more.

Many people in their 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond are still mentally alert, but the idea of writing may be foreign to them. However, oral storytelling is probably not. Get them talking. All you need are patience and a recording device. Try one of the new, small, inexpensive video cameras, or even an old-fashioned tape recorder. Or just listen and write down the stories yourself. Whether in book form, video, or cassette archives, your loved one’s stories can be preserved for the family.

There was a time when many people left their legacies in letters to family and friends. Those letters were often preserved to become their life stories. Few people write real "snail mail" letters these days, and email messages just cannot fill the same functions. Perhaps blogs may, and the number of Elderbloggers is growing.

But meanwhile, you can help. Think of the joys of watching a video of Grandma playing with her grandchildren, or of Grandpa relating his military exploits to family members, complete with audience reactions. Do you want those stories and experiences to be lost? Write or record them before it's too late.

5 comments:

Pat's Place said...

I'm writing! I'm writing! I am preparing my stories for Lulu.com. Now, I just have to figure out all the ins and outs of getting them ready to print.

seniorwriter said...

Good for you! Lulu offers good live help, so if you run into trouble, no problem. I had to ask once or twice.

Dan Curtis said...

Thanks Marlys for championing the need to capture and preserve our life stories.

I'm a personal historian. For the past five years I've helped both boomers and seniors document their lives. One of the advantages of hiring a personal historian is that the job gets done and it's more fun working with someone than sitting all alone trying to compose something.

People as a rule are also more open and forthcoming talking to a stranger than a family member. We've all had the experience of sitting on a bus or train and having our seat mate regale us with their life story.

For those who might want to hire the services of a personal historian I would encourage them to check out www.personalhistorians.org which is the site for the Association of Personal Historians. It has a range of useful information and an index of members throughout North America and the rest of the world.

Coffeemom2boys said...

I just found your wonderful blog and I've bookmarked it.

I just retired at age 55 after teaching elementary school for 33 years. I love family history, and I'm in the process of writing about my mother's life. She will be 92 in December and, thank God, is still healthy and very alert.

I'm thankful to have found your blog with so much information. Your experience is very impressive. Thank you for sharing it with us!

seniorwriter said...

Thanks for the kind words, Coffeemom. Good luck with your mother's story! She's lucky to have your help.