Tell Me a Story…

When I was a child, my favorite bedtime stories were the ones my Mom told me about her childhood. Most of them weren’t very complicated or very dramatic stories. I think the most interesting thing about them was the novelty of hearing about my mom as a little girl. Also, knowing that the stories she told were true made them far more fascinating to me than any fairy tales or other stories she might have told me.

Those stories have in turn become some of my children’s favorite stories. Since they never got to know their grandmother (she died before they were born), these stories have special importance for them, linking them to her world in a fundamental way.

But what does telling stories have to do with downsizing the family home?

Well, actually, we think it has a lot to do with it. One of the lessons we learned while writing our book was the importance of taking the time to tell family stories along the way–and ideally, to record them while you’re at it.

But there’s really no reason to wait until you’re downsizing the home to do this. Capturing family stories for posterity can–and should–happen anytime, the sooner the better. And today’s recording technology is so ubiquitous, easy-to-use, and unobtrusive, that there’s really no excuse for not capturing some of those favorite family stories for any of us anymore.

Why not think about taking a digital voice recorder–or using the movie feature on someone’s digital camera–at the next family picnic, wedding, or other get-together? Then, when someone automatically and naturally starts launching into a story, push the button, and record. (You should always be sure to get permission from the storyteller, of course, before sharing it with anyone else, or publicizing it in any way.)

Or have one of your children, or grandchildren, interview one of the older people in the family, who may be feeling a little left out of the main action anyway. It could make their day, and provide a valuable record of times gone by for your whole family in years to come.

The skill involved in interviewing people, like everything else, is something that improves with practice. But you don’t have to be an expert to get started. All you have to do is take a few minutes to wonder what your subject’s life was like a long time ago, what stories they may know that you haven’t heard yet, what famous events in history they would have memories about, and start asking questions.

Next week’s post will give a few suggestions about how to get started.



2 Responses

  1. Would love to hear particular strategies for how you elicit stories and capture stories as you go through the downsizing process – unobtrusively, and w/o derailing said process. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Paula. My next post will have a few suggestions for how to get the conversational ball rolling. As for ways to elicit and capture stories during the actual process of downsizing, often the objects being packed, distributed, disposed of, or saved themselves often “hold” stories or elicit questions that come spilling out, given the right atmosphere, attitude, and love of storytelling. (“Remember the time Mom and Dad moved the piano in and Dad said that was the low point of their marriage?” or “Where did this embroidered silk robe come from?”)

      Keeping the process on track can indeed be a challenge, since many people consider storytelling more fun than packing, hauling, and cleaning, all essential parts of the process, and it can indeed be distracting. But everyone needs to take breaks sometime, and one very enjoyable way to enjoy those down-times is to share stories, with someone making sure to capture the tales–whether in broad strokes with pencil and paper, or in accurate detail, using a digital recording device.

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