Friday, March 7, 2008

Boxes in the Attic

I think we've all heard the stories and maybe even in our own family. Great Aunt Mildred (I don't know why I always use that name) passes away and as the family is cleaning out her home, they find a box, a chest or a pile of old "stuff." As they go through the correspondence, photos, and other momentos, they realize that Aunt Mildred had a story to tell. But she never told it, or she told it but there are details in the now-treasured box that are a surprise to those she left behind. Though that chest of special items is truly a treasure, how much more would it have been if she'd gone through it with you while she was alive. And what a shame that time has passed. Lets you and me vow not to let that happen in our families.

Below are some suggestions on how to encourage your loved one to share now;

1. Think History. In a town a few miles away, where my aunt was raised, there was a terrible flood. I believe it was in the 40's but I'm not sure. I do know that my aunt, even at her young age, knew it was a terribly important event. She saved newspaper clippings and took photographs. She still has a notebook full of them. Think about the history around your loved ones and ask questions based on it.

2. Think Events. Have you heard the story of your grandparents wedding? Have you heard the story of your parents wedding? Now, I'm not talking about just the wedding itself. I'm talking about the WHOLE story. For example, if I were to tell my story, and if I were questioned the right way, I might share some funny things I remember. My husband and I forgot to pick up our marriage license from the court house. And it didn't occur to us until a few hours before the wedding. By then the courthouse was closed, so we had to make phone calls and talk someone into meeting us there to open up the marriage records office for us. Another vivid memory for me was sitting on a stool with my dress fluffed around it, so as not to wrinkle my dress. I hadn't eaten all day, so one of my bridesmaids handed me a yogurt to eat as I sat on my "throne." Also think about births, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and even funerals and deaths.

3. Think Correspondence. We are such an instant nation. We email, text message, and use our cell phones without a second thought; it's a part of our culture. But it wasn't always that way. Ask your loved one about how mail was received when they were young, and ask if they saved any of the letters. Looking at the correspondence of yester-year is like peeking through the key hole to a time you only dreamed about. Letters and postcards not only tell the story of the sender and receiver, but also tell about that time in history.

After listening to the stories, after looking at photographs, and after reading letters and postcards, don't forget the cardinal rule; write it down. Don't assume you'll remember everything that Great Aunt Mabel said. And don't assume that you will be around forever to pass on the stories. Write down everything you remember now.

Write Now-Because it is later than you think. ~Karen


TheElementary said...

This is wonderful- anything that prompts people to write and share their history is a marvellous thing. You're right, we all have somebody like that. Nobody's life is boring, whatever they did with it there is always some amazing stories to be told about the things they did and the adventures they had. This post sums up how I feel about life- that nobody is dull. There's so much if you scratch the surface.

Linda Austin said...

Excellent article I intend to blog about, Karen.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Thanks you two. Of course, I agree but it's great to hear from someone else. We all have a story to tell. ~Karen