During our Thanksgiving gathering on my husband’s side of the family I sat next to his grandmother before the supper began. After I gave her a stack of updated pictures of my kids she pulled out an envelope of old worn photographs. While thumbing through those pictures I and other family members peppered her with questions about the people in them and then for more details of the stories she hinted at. It was fascinating. In the 20 – 30 minutes we sat there I learned more about my husband’s family history than I have in the eight years we’ve been married and the fifteen years I’ve known him. The key was asking questions.
Grandma has wanted to write her memoirs for years but it has seemed like an insurmountable task. We’ve talked about it as a family before and considered buying her a digital recorder so she could verbally tell them or having her write them and paying someone to transcribe them onto the computer. We’ve talked of her getting a laptop but having to learn a whole new form of technology only adds to the “largeness” of the task. Finally as we sat there I decided that I would create a “prompt book” for her.
I started by purchasing a regular notebook or exercise book and fancied it up by first gluing a ribbon horizontally across it so that you could tie it closed. Then I covered the front and back with pretty scrapbook paper. Inside I glued envelopes to the front and back covers where she could place any photos she’d like to pass on. Every few pages I wrote a question or a prompt for Grandma to answer that would allow her to write brief anecdotes about her life and our family history. This way she doesn’t have to come up with a huge organizational strategy and wonder where to start, she can just take it a story at a time.
This book will surely be a two-way gift. It shows Grandma that we honor her and care about what she has been through and how that has shaped our family and the finished product will be a gift to our entire family for generations to come.
Update: We gave the memoir book to Grandma at Christmas and as we sat around as a family her, Grandpa and all the kids started sharing stories about their growing up and the "shenanigans" they'd get into. It was amazing and so fun to hear the stories. As they talked I grabbed the prompt book and added questions about the stories they were telling. I can't wait to get the completed book back someday!
Oh - and my favourite quip from Grandpa (in light of the year of serious health issues he's dealt with and overcome..."
Gpa: "What's that?"
Gma: "It's a book for writing our memoirs!"
Gpa: "Well I guess we'd better get on that pretty quick."
Bahaha - without missing a beat. It's been a scary year and this Christmas was a blessing!