Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Story Jar by Carol Harrison

Each person has a unique story. The stories of our lives are filled with memory moments, happy times, tough stuff, and things we would rather forget or wish had never happened. Sometimes I think of instances in my life and the everyday occurrences that happened during that period of time and am sure no one would want to listen to those stories. Yet my children, grandchildren and even other people think it is unique, unusual and at times just plain crazy when they hear about some of our memories.

I have always loved stories, both to listen to and to tell.Over the last few years my family has encouraged me to write them down, preserve them for future generations and even share some with the public. I sit at my computer and my mind draws a blank. The stories that flow as I interact with other family members suddenly hide in the recesses of memory. I need a prompt to discover them and coax them on to paper or the screen.

  One Christmas, I received this story jar from my oldest daughter. The white tag is titled Recipe for My Life History. The recipe reads, "Combine a generous slice of your life history, add a dash of nostalgia, several cups of facts and feelings and deliciously interesting questions. Draw one slip of paper. Take a few minutes to enjoy the memories, then paste or write the question at the tops of a blank page in a notebook and fill in your answer."

The small brown tag reads, " This product was prepared to preserve your life story. Enjoy the scrumptious, home-made memories that celebrate something very important - YOU!"

The gift intrigues me and I eagerly opened the jar to find it stuffed with strips of paper. Each piece had a number and a question typed on it. She had thought of many questions she desired an answer to, in order to help her know more about me - not just as mom, but as a person.

Some examples of questions included in this story jar include:
1. Are there any family heirlooms in your possession? Tell about these and how ou came to acquire them.
16. Describe your wedding dress, bridesmaids dresses
31. Do you have a special school memory ( high school or college)?
35. Do you remember a special birthday party you've had, given or been to?
65. Tell about the changes you've seen in your lifetime: society in general, technology, fashion, fads, morality, politics, etc.
67. Tell about your family traditions: Christmas, birthday, graduations, Thanksgiving, weddings, etc.
94. What makes each of your brothers and sisters ( or i-laws) special? Be specific.
102 Write a description of your husband.

I have had several hard cover books filled with questions and spaces to write your personal answers. The end result is meant to provide a family history. I read the questions, thought of answers but never put pen to paper to record my thoughts and memories. I always thought they lacked something, but could not pinpoint what it might be. This story jar offered a greater variety of questions, covered more aspects of my life and that of my family, including places to relate my faith journey.  I appreciated the prompts.

But to be honest, the years have passed and I have not grabbed a pretty notebook  or begun to answer the questions in the fashion the tag suggested. I let the jar sit on the shelf, procrastinating while I waited for the elusive someday to arrive. I still told stories to the family. I even have begun to write a few of them which have captured the answers to a few of the questions. Photos and journal entries have occasionally been scrapbooked together to provide more of the family story. The task of preserving my memories is far from complete.

This unique little story jar offers one method of prompting the capture of memories to compile a family history. People's imaginations and creativity can provide many other ideas. 

What about you? Have you begun a written record of memories and family history? If so, how did you begin the process? What method(s) have you employed?

Maybe you still have parents and/or grandparents whose stories you love to hear. Consider encouraging them to share them, not only orally but to write them down or record them in some fashion.

This year I plan to continue documenting family history, compiling it in an accessible manner. I might even get around to reading each question in that story jar from my daughter and making sure I write some answers for her to read.

Have fun as you look at the memories which make up your story.

Storyteller, speaker and writer, Carol Harrison, loves to share from the heart in groups of all sizes as well as one on one. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who knows all too well about the twists and turns of life but also that even when life is tough there is hope.  She makes her home in Saskatoon, SK with her husband Brian. Carol has published one book, Amee's Story and a number of short stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books and other anthologies


Glynis said...

Oh Carol. What a beautiful idea - a story jar. I LOVE that. What a wonderful way to answer the questions our children have. I seriously might suggest my children do that for me. What a thoughtful creative daughter you have.
My Dad has oodles of photos on his walls from when he was in the war. I have stuck stickers with numbers on the back of the frames and Dad has told me what they are of and I have documented them in a book. Dad knows all the details of the photos but if I try to remember them, I cannot - there are hundreds. So I know I will treasure this little book when the time comes.

Donna Mann said...

Very nice, Carol. I enjoyed every word. I lead a group in the local senior's centre. I'd like to share this blog with them. They will love it. Keep encouraging people to write their story. I have an online opportunity on my website for people to begin the process. Every little bit helps.
Blessings on your day. Donna

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