“We don’t have family traditions…

…like we would if we were religious.”

One early client reached out to not just trace, but to establish her family’s path to the present. Some unique markers on that West Coast path came to light.

An important job of family traditions is to transport the story of your family. What is a family tradition?

You know the big ones:  Gatherings, rituals, and events that mark spiritual or cultural journeys (communion, bat mitzvah) or times of year (Kwanzaa, Easter, Solstice, Seder).

Repetition of seasonal or annual community holidays and their foods, songs, and rituals (Bastille Day, Thanksgiving, or my favorite: April Fools Day).

But a family tradition can also be daily practice that everyone can expect and count on: asking “what made you laugh today” as they come home from

Or a place. I related when this client talked about her grandmother’s west coast home. Going to grandma’s house meant:

  • anticipation
  • turning down the drive to those familiar sights, signaling the start of a warm visit
  • walking in to that smell: giant chocolate chip cookies with only three chips apiece, haha
  • roaming the house
  • feeding the birds
  • skirting sea roses to get to the beach.

Maybe Gram wasn’t on a regular schedule the way national and religious holidays are, but Grandma counts! The latest news about grandmas gives them credit for evolution itself, and says that while men hunted, “grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

If you would like to record all your stories and memories about grandma, I have a Family Narrative Coaching plan for that. If you’d like to hear Nana’s memories (and some surprising facts!) we can do the whole project with her.

Get started on getting the story from your mom or grandma on your own with these five FREE prompts.

#TellYourStory

#SaveYourStory

 

 

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My dad’s handwriting, and his laugh: why interviewing family matters.

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My dad’s upper-and-lower-case handwriting takes me back to long summers in Maine every time I see it.

Do your parents text you? They do? Then I was jealous of you: I imagine little notes, daily check-ins, a joke, sending them cute pictures of the kids all of the time…. Plus, no long calls, squeezing that flat cel phone between your shoulder and ear, getting your brain irradiated to greater or lesser degrees… My 14-year-old son joked that it’s like sending telegrams, morse code — or even smoke signals!

Anyway, neither of my parents have smart phones, and we don’t do any of that. I used to be jealous of you.

Then, I took a good look at this: my name, in my dad’s handwriting. Very distinctive. Every time I look at it, I remember: living with my Dad all summer — shopping lists on the fridge, notes to remind us what time the yellow school bus left for swimming lessons at the lake, things to do at work the next day (he was town manager of our wee Maine town), notes to himself about house projects he always had going — or about the businesses in development or currently underway.

I went everywhere with him: the dump, grocery store, (he taught me to jump up and click my heels in the air by practicing on a grocery cart!).  We went to the hardware store with wooden floors and to the Red Barn antique shop, where we would stock up on puzzles to get through the winter.  In winter we’d assemble puzzles and play cribbage, as he did growing up in northern Maine farm country.

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Pa’s boots.

And every summer when I visit, we spend at least ONE night sitting at the kitchen table remembering together and reminding each other: when we had a concession stand at the local stock car racing track, when we got pulled over TWICE in a borrowed Cadillac on the way to my grandmother’s house.  That time my car broke down in the Shaker Village (luckily they had a phone!); that time my car broke down and the store-owner wouldn’t let me make a toll call; that time when my car spun into a snowbank and I was closing my eyes to calm my nerves and didn’t see the skiers coming to bail me out — so when they knocked on my window we all screamed and scared each other to death!

Pa has a distinctive laugh, a low throaty chortle. Even if I felt confident that I could remember all the stories, I would only remember my side — not that he’d left a party HE was hosting to pick me up in that broken down car. Or that he’d had words with the shopkeeper. Or that he’d overheard skiers telling friends about stopping to help and getting scared out of their ski pants… And then there’s his laugh.

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Big Nanny

Recording is the answer.

My mother has a recording of HER mother from the early 1980s, and hearing Big Nanny’s voice, her tisk-tisk sound, her laugh… it’s soothing and exciting.  I’m a cultural historian, and her voice is as important to me as hearing her words, hearing about her early childhood, and how far we’ve come as a family — and a nation — that nobody lives within FEET of the railroad tracks any more.  The sound of her voice says as much as her words.

A preservation technology firm will preserve and make available my grandmother’s voice.  And I suggest that we get to work on capturing YOUR Family Oral History while you can.  I will walk you through the whole process, researching and sculpting the perfect interview questions, conducting the online meeting/s with up to four attendees from anywhere with online access, and ensuring that you have multiple, accessible copies of your results.  You’ll know more about your family and yourself, and you’ll have another tool in your parenting toolbox, too!  Read more about it here.  Reach out to have a conversation about Capturing Oral Family History: Angela@AngelaLTodd.com

And to get started passing your family history to your own kids, I have a handy guide to get you started.  Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk your way through the school week about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

And follow along on Facebook, where I’ll be posting a family history prompt every #ThrowbackThursday !

xoxox

Angela