Last night at a book signing event, I was asked a question I hadn’t heard before. “What do you do about the older women, the ones who grew up in the Great Depression and thereabouts, who have never been comfortable talking about themselves?”
The woman asking the question (I’ll call her Jill) is curious about her mother’s life, but she assured me there was no way her mother would write stories. Mom’s too modest, and furthermore, she believes her life has been as plain and ordinary as mud.
The question stumped me. Many people are deterred by the perception that their lives are dull. I’ve written about that. If you think this of your own life and still want to write, that’s one thing. But you can’t force someone else to write. If they do it to appease you, the results will surely lack spirit, and probably not go beyond basic facts.
After some discussion, we came up with a plan. This woman will get a digital recorder, formulate some questions designed to loosen Mom's memory, and interview her mother. She’ll explain that she is interested in the details of her mother’s life, and if Mom thinks her own life is dull and ordinary, Jill thinks otherwise. But even if it is dull and ordinary, by today’s standards it would seem heroic. Her granddaughters and great-granddaughters are not familiar with that way of life, and they deserve to know. Jill is optimistic this will work, and promised to let me know how it goes.
After she finishes the recordings, she will download them to a CD, so future generations can hear the sound of Mom’s voice, and she will incorporate much of the information in stories about her mother.
Another person needed a way of capturing stories from a ninety-year-old grandfather. Recording was the recommendation there too.
These people reminded me that we are not only custodians of our own stories, but we may also need to be custodians of stories for previous generations also. If you have an older relative who isn’t inclined to write, fire up that recorder, capture some stories, and preserve their legacy before the timer runs out.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal