The Darndest Things – Are We Recording Them?
As the old saying goes, “Kids say the darndest things!” Many of us older folks also say and do amazing things. Are we losing them as soon as they happen? Or are we recording them to preserve our own histories?
A year ago I wrote my goal to spend 20 minutes a day journaling, so that I would have a good history to pass on. I did badly! A more realistic goal may be 20 minutes a week. It’s less time, but it’s more likely to happen.
As we spend holidays with family and relatives, let’s also spend time writing down not only Grandma’s stories but our own as well.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself or others. The sample responses are from my own journal.
Where were you today? Describe what you smelled, felt, heard – the full experience.
(Example.) Today was another day at work. The day passed by quickly. I was excited to get home as there are only a few more days until Christmas and since it’s the weekend my wife and I planned on going Christmas shopping. We have intentionally delayed our shopping trips this year as we have been fixing up some areas of the house that have waiting way too long for some upgrades. Our worn out carpet has been replaced with some nice but inexpensive laminate wood flooring. Our Formica counters in the kitchen are no more. My wife and I had a great 20 hours or so building our own one of a kind granite counters. We love them. The whole house looks much better.
Today our youngest said the funniest thing! He shares a room with our 16 year old son and being much younger he sometimes likes to sleep in his second bed – the loft bed we made a while back in his closet. Its not as warm in the loft so when I found him there I asked – oh, why are you in here? He thought about it and said – Well, I just decided it was time to move back in. At six that was pretty cute.
Another of our kids today had a major meltdown when she didn’t feel like sweeping – that wasn’t fun. Tomorrow is Saturday – some more fix up work ahead. Better get to sleep.
Who was with you? How are they related to you? How did they react to the day’s events?
(Example) This year for Christmas we are at my parents’. All 12 of the kids and their families are in town. Wow – what a group – almost all of the 12 kids now have their own kids – some of us even have married kids- and there are some babies due soon – I won’t tell you who is about to be a very young grandpa!
We have not yet taken a group picture but I can just imagine how that will go! Wish us luck.
Tomorrow I will try to record some of Mom and Dad’s stories on video for our kids to enjoy later in life.
Here are several approaches to journaling. They all work. The trick is to find one that works best for you.
Example: “December 15, 2012 – Went to work. Paid mortgage. Ate with family at McDonalds. Took the train to SLC – first time on the new train to SLC from American Fork.”
My maternal grandfather and his father kept journals this way. Entries listed the major work of the day, amount earned, spent and perhaps some special memory or family event.
My paternal grandfather wrote out pretty much everything he thought. He passed away a year ago and within weeks my dad had scanned his journals and put them in cloud storage for all the family to access and read. Grandpa wanted us to read them once he was gone. Many entries were written in the wee hours of the morning. There were projects at home, where he made plans and worked out the specifics by writing, until he had them all figured out. There were political entries, where he’d go on and on about his ideas on the current political issues of the day. Other entries were spiritual in nature, reflecting his understanding of life.
Journals with Prompts
Some store-bought journals, such as baby journals and pregnancy journals, are printed with daily prompts. For pregnancy, these might be doctor’s visits, how you feel, physical growth, feeling the baby kick and move, etc. For a baby, they may include milestones, such as birth, eating, walking, and talking. For travel, the prompts ask for places, events, personal experiences, new friends, and more.
Any style of personal journal is a treasure for family members who want to understand their ancestors. The holiday season is an excellent time to start or continue writing.
Make notes of stories as memories as they’re told, then return to your notes as soon as possible to write out the full story. It may help to imagine a grandchild or some other loved one as an audience. If that makes you too self-conscious, imagine yourself reading your own recollections, years later. Along the way you may discover that journaling is good for more than history. It’s good for the writer’s soul, too.