Column: It’s up to you to preserve the stories of your family

This column was originally published Dec. 23, 2010, in The Jamestown Sun.

This weekend, families across much of the world will come together to celebrate the holidays.

They’ll share much over the holiday, including food, gifts and stories.

The food will be eaten and digested or last a week or so in the fridge before spoiling. The presents will — ideally — be accepted with gratitude and treasured for years, assuming they don’t break or go missing. Less than ideally, they’ll be exchanged at the store or regifted.

The stories, however, can last forever.

My grandmother, Patricia Hund, told me one of my favorite stories — it was about her childhood in the Great Depression. At the time, her family was working very hard to save money to buy a farm, so they couldn’t even afford to eat one of the chickens they raised for money.

Grandma and her siblings, however, loved chicken. They loved any kind of meat, for that matter, and conspired to kill one of the unlucky fowl while making it look like an accident.

My grandmother, then about 5 to 10 years old, and her siblings would wait until they could hear their neighbor, Mike Moriarty, come down the road in his old Ford Model T and they’d chase the flock out in front of the car.

If they were lucky, one of the birds would be hit and the children would bring it back to their mother. Because the chicken could not be sold, it was quickly plucked and cooked.

Grandma said they used that trick at least a few times to get a dinner of chicken and dumplings, and they never got caught.

Two Christmases ago, my mother and I sat down with Grandma Pat for a videotaped interview. We got her to tell us that story and several others so we could preserve them for years to come.

She talked about her childhood, becoming a nurse, getting married and starting a family. She spoke about raising her 12 children after my grandfather died in a car accident and she told us about remarrying years later to a man with 11 children.

In case you’re wondering, yes, we are a Catholic family.

My grandmother told us about those things and more for nearly two hours until we nearly ran out of memory on the camcorder. She gave us story after story, and each of them is priceless.

Grandma Pat died in July. She may be gone from this world, but her family lives on.

So do her stories.

Someday, I hope to show my own children what their great-grandmother was like. Family stories like hers are sacred. They tell us about the people who made us and what made them the people they were. They give us a source of pride and a sense of belonging.

Now it’s the age of digital recording and archiving, and there’s no excuse for letting those stories be lost to history. Quality digital video recorders can be had for less than $300. In fact, I bet many people out there will receive such devices under their Christmas trees this year.

We have the technology, and this weekend, with families everywhere sharing the holiday, it’s the perfect opportunity. So I challenge all the younger generations out there to take charge in preserving their family stories. 

 We young people are the ones our elders turn to when they need help with some gadget.  Take those gadgets — at least the ones capable of recording audio and video — grab your elders and get them talking on tape.

As much as we hate to think about it, our older relatives aren’t getting any younger. Believe me. No video could replace your grandparents, but it can give you something very special to remember them by.

But it’s not just about you. It’s about your ancestors. It’s also about your descendents.

Some day, you won’t be in the younger generation or even the middle-aged generation. You might have children or grandchildren or even great-grandchildren. You will be their connection to their heritage.

When that day comes, it will be your turn to pass along those wonderful family stories. It will be your turn to add a few of your own.

(Logan C. Adams is the assistant editor of The Jamestown Sun. He can be reached at 701-952-8451 or by e-mail at ladams@jamestownsun.com)

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97 Responses to Column: It’s up to you to preserve the stories of your family

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