Updated: Nov 3
The importance of a life story might be obvious to some but certainly not all. For example, members of the Silent Generation didn't get that moniker randomly. This is a generation who worked hard and was raised to not make a fuss about themselves. They are not into selfies. This is like asking the most humble among us, Do you know how important you are to me? Now, tell me all about you and start from the beginning.
But many of us, regardless of age, don't often see ourselves how others see us. A parent may not think their life is anything extraordinary, but his or her stories from growing up a child in the 40s, 50s or 60s is interesting to a child or grandchild who grew up decades later. The music, the clothes, the hair! Just dust off those old family photos of Mom in saddle shoes or Dad in a plaid suit for examples.
Also, don't we all need reminders that we were young once? Grandkids love hearing stories of their elders' childhood. Grandma, you played with dolls? Grandpa, you got in trouble at school?!? Simple but beautiful stories about school days, first crushes, favorite playthings, and sibling hijinks are always a hit. These anecdotes show us how much our culture has changed through the years, but also how much of our human experience really transcends time.
I also like to remind our reluctant storytellers to consider their audience. Most of our books are done for families, by families. Children and grandchildren think these elder stories are important if for no other reason than it created theirs! If your loved ones are hesitant to share, ask them if they wished they had stories about their own parents preserved in some way. This usually hits home, because the sad truth is people take their stories with them when they go.
On that note, this is a photo of my mom and her three sisters from 2016. I spent much of the year working on this project capturing all of their funny, touching, and different stories into one book, and I'm so glad I did it when I did. Two of the four Foley girls are no longer with us but I feel my kids have a piece of all of them secured in story.
So this is your alarm bell. This isn't just a matter of solving a gift giving problem. You are preserving your family history! Hire it out or DIY-- but do it before it's too late. We take it for granted that our family historians will always be around. So, get going!