Got a Few Memories?

You have tried in vein to get the whole family history from your great aunt. You may have attempted to interview her or just have her write out the family story, but to no avail. Well, that could just be too massive a project, at least to begin with. Another approach would be to have that special relative talk about just one memory.  Just one shared recollection in that person’s life, whether they talk to you or write it out themselves could be followed with additional recollections.

However, what type of ideas could you suggest to spark their memory?  How about their favorite food their mother made them as a child, everyone has one of those memories? Another from childhood could be about a special Christmas or birthday gift.  An integrating idea would be to suggest they tell about an incident when they did something wrong or bad.  Did they accidentally pull down their mother’s clothes line while playing or throw a ball through the neighbor’s window and not report it or took a candy bar from the neighborhood store without paying for it?  There can be a whole reign of possibilities with that suggestion.  Do remind them that the ‘statute of limitations’ has long run out, they are safe!

Work up to a time when they were a young adult, ask them to recollect they first kiss or their first love.  Travel experiences can bring about all types of ideas. See if they traveled due to military service, to attend school, for a job or to marry someone.  Have them tell or write about that aspect of going to a new location, what was it like, the good and bad points.

A great way to learn about other relatives is to ask the person about one of their siblings; what they liked about them, how they helped them or didn’t help them over the years.  Ask about the person’s mother, what they remember best about her; how she dressed, her special hobbies, the music she loved to listen to all the time, the list can be quite long, but just pick one idea.

If you have no luck convincing a relative to do this one memory, set an example. You can start with yourself. Write out just one simple memory; whether it be a fun one, sad, heartwarming or devilish, write it out. If you can, select a memory that ties-in or relates to that relative you are trying to get to do the same thing, write a short memory.

Here is one I got my mother’s cousin to write a few years ago about the time she came to help my parents when they owned a chicken farm.

“Harry informed me, an experienced R. N., he badly needed help to inoculate the chickens and it would have to be done after dark by flashlight and would take approximately six hours. Would I do it?  Wow !! How do you say no? However, I have some serious questions. Where was the spot to stick the needle and would the chicken hold still? Of course not, it was Harry’s job to sneak up on the chicken and hold it still. Not as easy as it sounds.  We were both pecked many times before the night was over, as nesting chickens do not like to be disturbed.  It wasn’t difficult after the first 500 shots except for the lack of sleep and very weary arms. We couldn’t stop as all the chickens had to have their shots or we would not know which ones did and which ones didn’t.  Harry had decided that he would wait until all were finished to then tag the chickens.  The last shot to a chicken was administered as the sun came up. What a night!”

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