Monday, December 3, 2007

Write Now - A Holiday Perspective

Write Now. It's the name of my blog. After my father shared letters he'd written during WWII, we began having breakfast at a local diner once a week. We talked about what was in the letters and we talked about what was not. And I learned something that I think just about everyone can benefit from.

I grew up hearing several of the stories. I knew them well...or at least I thought I did. But as my father retold the stories to me over breakfast and I went home to write them up, I realized that memory is a funny thing. My memories of what he'd told me as a child were not entirely wrong. It's just that I had run stories together, I'd even added detail. And here's what I think we can learn from that.

When you remember a story that Great-aunt Mabel or Grandpa Burt told, your mind fills in details that they don't mention, in order to make sense of it. The memories are not your own so you don't have the benefit of recalling them. So your mind makes assumptions without your permission.

So now, as an adult, I was hearing my father's stories for the first time...again. And when I went home to write them up, I realized that the story is truly in the details. I often followed up our time together with a couple of emails to clarify the story. There is something about writing it down, that ensures more accuracy.

The holiday season is upon us. Family will gather, for many it is the only time of year that everyone is all together. And for a few, it will be their last holiday. Take the time to "write now" during this season. It can be as simple as taking a small tape recorder to the dinner table. Or it may be that you take Grandma to lunch and have her tell you that story you grew up hearing. Writing your family history isn't as daunting as it sounds. It just takes a little planning and a little time. ~Karen


Virginia Lee said...

You're lucky. My dad died long before I became fascinated with Southern Studies and it wasn't until I'd gone back to college in my 30's that I found out that he was a Civil War scholar who used to give lectures on the topic. Who knew? To me he was just Dad, the minister.

Oral histories should be done for all your older family members. It's a killing thing to hear stories about your family fourth hand when they were in the next town all along. For example, I never knew that my great-aunt could fly an airplane until her funeral. I deeply regret not hearing about that from her directly.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

That's such a great point about funerals. Many, many a time I have been at a funeral and learned new things about the person who has passed. And the same seems to be true of other people as you hear whispers of, "I didn't know that." Just think if someone had taken the time to put it all in writing. It's powerful stuff.

Thanks for the comment! ~Karen