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Sharing Memories: a Lockdown “How To”

Sharing Memories: a Lockdown “How To”

We’re still stuck in the midst of a pandemic, and most of us can’t get together in person to share the kind of stories or reminiscences that might help us pass along or preserve our individual stories.

What that means, in practice, is that it’s time to seek out new strategies to connect (or reconnect) with your extended family members and friends you may not have had time to sit down with for years. You can even seek out distant cousins you may never have met or known about, and learn about their part of your family’s story and perspective.

Some tips to move forward:

  •  Use occasions like birthdays or public events (like the first 100 days of President Joseph Biden’s administration) to spark a different kind of conversation with those you’re close to and elicit first-hand memories. Do they remember the discussion about impeaching President Nixon, and how did that compare to what’s happening today? Did their parents or grandparents tell them about what it was like to live through the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919? Or get on Zoom and instead of yet another painful long-distance conversation, use it to do something interactive, from passing along how to cook a family recipe or picking out a book or knickknack with a curious history behind it, and sharing that.
  • This is a great time to sort through any boxes of old photos, letters or documents in your storage space. It can be a great winter-time stressbuster, and you may well find that your kids are absolutely fascinated by glimpses of you in cutting-edge fashion circa 1974. You’ll get a chance to pass along what it was like to grow up in an era of costly phone calls, sans Internet. You can also reach out to family members to try and identify those unknown folks who pop up in pictures of holidays and weddings, and share memories. If you’ve got deeds to your house, you can track who owned it before you did, and research the past life of the rooms in which you now spend more hours a day than you ever imagined!
  • Check out StoryCorps, the oral history project designed to capture the conversations between friends and family in which personal remembrances are shared. From battling for civil rights at home to fighting for the country abroad, or growing up in the Depression years, these audio narratives are spellbinding. They’re great if you want to personalize a home-school lesson about almost any topic – and why not record and upload your own to the StoryCorps digital archive?

-Suzanne McGee