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Give Your Kids Their History

You are a wealth of information, a valuable resource for the rest of your family. By age 50 we have accumulated a half-century of memories that include friends, a growing family, interesting life lessons and experiences. For centuries, in the old tradition of story-telling, senior relatives passed down tales of family history to the rising generation.

After Maggie retired, she began thinking about all the places where her family had lived since she married. She recalled how they struggled in the early years; she thought about adventures, humorous and not so, that they had shared. She reflected on stories told to the children about things they had been too young to remember. For years these anecdotes had been recounted at random, but often with no clear frame of reference.

A family’s yesterdays can become a jumble and soon get lost. How many of us have found an old family photo containing that one person no one can identify?

Maggie thought, what if she created a chronological family history, dating from her marriage to when the children had grown? From that point, she could fit each worthy event into its proper time frame, giving the children a tangible record of their own young lives. She would include the quirky story of meeting her husband and of their early married life.

As Maggie began making and organizing notes, the project became a powerful memory exercise. She inspected family photos to help her remember, and was amazed at how the times and events began to gather themselves into one orderly whole.

The more she worked on it, the more memories came flooding back, begging to be included—people, events, and even places and possessions she hadn’t thought about in years.

She located photos online of every house and apartment they had occupied around the country in the last 50 years, except for one that the highway department had leveled. Websites like Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, and V-pike were valuable resources. (Tip: If the website won’t let you save or email yourself the picture, pull up your computer’s “snipping tool” to capture it and send it to yourself.)

It doesn’t require a special skill to put together a history for your children. Maggie chose to put her project in story form, but just placing a list of events and people into a time-frame lets your children view their lives as a complete picture. When you start jotting down those memories as they come, don’t be surprised if they lead to more.

Looking over her finished project, Maggie says it was not only mentally stimulating and fun, but it gave her renewed appreciation for her husband and children, for her parents, for friends along the way, and for the hard times that brought needed lessons.

She says it was not about wallowing in a longed-for past, but a time of gratitude for the experience of life itself—a life lived in all these places, including all these adventures, with all these precious people–people who deserve to be remembered, and for people who want to remember.

Article by Constance Watkins