As we approach Christmas, we remember fondly our childhood Santas and reindeers and fairies. If we are lucky enough, like I am, to have children or grandchildren, we can pass down the traditions of our childhood, we can tell the stories of our past. But what happens after we are gone? What legacy do we leave?
Laura Hedgecock, author of Memories of Me, shares her insights in this beautiful guest post, “Why Every Story Matters (And Why You Should Tell Yours).
Why Every Story Matters (And Why You Should Tell Yours)
“The most recent installment of my memoir was returned with the phrase ‘insufficiently harrowing’ stamped all over it.
Okay, that happened to a fictional character in Eric Lundgren’s novel The Facades, but, it’s a fear many would-be memoirists and memory collectors have. We wonder if our story is extraordinary—even harrowing—enough; if our writing is good enough; and if we have a message to share.
The short answer is “Yes!” I’m happy that Wendy invited me to (virtually) stand on my favorite soapbox to explain why every story matters.
“Good Enough?” versus “Connect Enough?”
“Good enough?” is the wrong question. Stories that allow you to connect with others are the ones that matter.
Stories don’t have to be extraordinary to connect. “Commonplace” stories and memories resonate with others because they parallel the daily rhythms and milestones that everyone experiences.
I learned this from my grandma. She wrote throughout her life, recording memories and family stories in a re-purposed notebook that she dubbed her “Treasure Chest of Memories.” She wrote about her relatives and grandparents, family stories, observations around the farm, and watching her children grow. She included things as “mundane” as watching a pretty bird and as personal as grieving the loss of my grandpa.
Those writings continue to connect us—her children and grandchildren—thirty years after her death.
Your stories matter to the people who love you.
We won’t always be there to comfort, cheer on, or advise our loved ones, particularly those who are a couple of generations younger than us. Through writing about your memories and what matters most to you, you will leave a legacy that connects you to current and subsequent generations.
For instance, through my grandmother’s memories, I continue to connect with her. She’s not just a grandmother. She’s a woman. She’s a mom with hopes and dreams for her children. She’s also a widow that never fathomed how badly a person could miss a spouse.
Your Family Tree Starts with You
Writing about personal and family stories connects family members on a visceral level. Loved ones start to understand your family’s history through your eyes.
In contrast to facts, narratives can help family members—including future ones—connect to their ancestors. These stories matter because they convey traditions, personalities, common history, and relationships. They can also fill in the gaps of our research.
For instance, because of her stories, when I see “Charles Crymes” on a family chart, I think of my grandmother’s words, “I remember Cousin Charlie Crymes and how jolly he could be….”
You don’t have to write a memoir to share your memories
You don’t have to write a life story. A memory can be a moment. You can journal your memories or write about individual episodes of your past. You can simply provide a narrative of your memories on a scrapbook page.
“Creating a legacy” sounds hard, but you’re probably already doing it. Whenever you mention a memory or tell an old story, you’re forming a legacy.
You don’t have to wait until you have perfect writing, time to scrapbook, or an extraordinary story. Start piecemeal.
LAURA HEDGECOCK’s book, Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life has prompts, in-depth brainstorming sheets, writing samples and writing advice. She also blogs memory sharing ideas and resources at TreasureChestOfMemories.com. She’d love you to come on over and explore.