When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother told us stories about her life in Sweden. She shared with us her memories of Swedish Christmases, telling of how poor her family had been and how, as children, they were happy to get candy or fruit.
Sadly, none of her stories were written down, and, now that my children are asking about their great-grandparents, I find myself trying to recall particular details. Unfortunately, I’m often unable to.
I wish I would have written down those interesting stories and remembrances my grandmother shared with me. I now realize that each of our lives needs to be recorded so future generations will know what it was like to live in our particular day and age.
My grandmother used to say, “There was nothing good about the ‘good old days,’” then she would explain. She would tell me how it took days to do the family wash and that everything had to be ironed, and how my grandfather had to shovel coal from the coal bin to keep the furnace going.
Most children will eventually be interested in learning about the family they are a part of. They’ll want to know about wisdom and traditions, how and where their family lived, and what the world was like for them. Knowing these things gives a sense of belonging.
It’s not difficult to preserve history. Just write down, type, or voice record your stories. Talk about your childhood and school days, what your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings were like, about your work and travel, and how things have changed over the years.
When my uncle was 80, his children talked him into sitting down with a tape recorder and talking about his life. When he died recently, at 91, portions of those recordings were shared with the family and friends at his funeral. It was a wonderful way to honor and remember him.
Several years ago, I made memory books for each of my children, as well as one for their cousin. Since my heritage and traditions are Swedish, I used that theme. I included recipes of their favorite foods, then added proverbs and stories, including stories my father had passed on to me before he died.
They all love their memory books and are glad for the glimpse into their grandfather’s life, especially the two children who never knew their grandfather because he died before they were born.
With all the technology available these days – tape recorders, video recorders, cell phones with cameras and video, digital cameras and laptop computers – recording family memories that will live on forever and can be passed from one generation to the next is easier than ever.
Have your children and grandchildren help. Get them to interview relatives about their lives. People love to talk about days gone by, so getting relatives to cooperate should be easy. Have the youngsters take notes and enter them onto the computer, then have the relatives check the work for accuracy. The children will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, and, best of all, they will have a piece of history that will last a lifetime.
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