Christmas Conversations


Christmas Conversations

The holidays are upon us, and if you are anything like me, you may also feel that time spent together with family you may not often see, is really special. 

Enjoy Time Together

We all lead busy lives, and we don’t always get to spend much time with loved ones. How often do adults who have living parents, see their folks?  I don’t live in the same town as my parents and we don’t see them often. In the space of a year, we may only see them for six or seven full days. Unless we increase the frequency of time together, with my parents getting older, the days that I will spend with my parents is limited. This has made me want to be more intentional about the time we have together to create memories. I will be seeing my parents next week over the holidays and while spending time with them, I really want to hear some stories about my mom and dad’s life. 

My Grandfather

I have a video recording which my dad did, when I was 13 years old, while we were visiting my grandfather’s house. My dad had the foresight to record my grandfather telling his story, because at that stage my grandfather was showing early signs of dementia. My grandfather was going through this old black and white photo album, from his childhood, relating stories about family members. It wasn’t just my grandfather telling stories, but a man telling stories for the last time. 

Nobody else in the family would have known the stories my grandfather related. Sadly my grandfather spent many years in a nursing home with dementia, and we were not able to have conversations with him like we did when my dad recorded my grandfather’s stories. The video is one of the only momentos I have from my grandfather. 

No Fancy Equipment Required

When my great grandfather was an adult and had stories to tell, there was no such thing as a video camera. There are so many questions I wish I could ask my great grandparents. We live in a time now where not only is it possible, but we have the device in our pocket to record stories. Most people have a smartphone, and when you use your phone to record stories, the videos are mp4 files, which can be stored in the cloud and you can access them for many years to come.

For many of us, this holiday time is an opportunity to do something meaningful with our loved ones by sharing and recording stories. This is one of the exercises that we do with our clients when we teach a class about telling stories. I encourage you to do the same, starting with naming your own parents which most people can do.

Ask Questions

It gets a little tricky when one has to recall their grandparents names, especially when it comes to knowing maiden names. Do you know what your parents and grandparents did for a living?  We also ask if you can tell us the first name of all eight of your great grandparents. Less than 10% of the people that I’ve asked are able to tell me the first name of all eight great grandparents. 

It made me realize that we may live our whole lives, being the main character of our own movie. We are trying to live a good life, while also doing good for other people and we want to leave a legacy. However, in two generations, our grandkids or great grandkids will likely not remember our first names.

Christmas is the Perfect Time to Record Stories

Here are some tips to help you get started recording family stories. It might be worth asking first if your parents or family are comfortable for you to record their stories on video. If not, you can still record their voice. While you are all lazing on the couch, start by asking your parents about their childhood. Start with Christmas or the holidays and find out what they did for Christmas. Ask what they ate or what family traditions they had. 

If you would rather not focus on the holidays, try to break it down into the different chapters of the person’s life. You can ask about their childhood, about their education, work history and raising a family. If you’re talking to your parents, ask about any hobbies they had. Essentially you can ask the questions based on who, what, why, when and how. If family members have a difficult time talking about their childhood, maybe encourage them to speak about something they are more comfortable with. Ask about their house, about family vacations or any other specific memories they have. 

Leave a Legacy

You’re going to look at the photos and videos one day while scrolling through your phone, and watching a video of your of your parents sitting on the couch telling stories will be one of the most important assets you have. Don’t leave it to chance, tell and record those stories!