Looming sickness and quarantine prompts many of us to fear for vulnerable loved ones or wonder what they are supposed to do while stuck at home. Are there ways to combine entertainment with productive activities? In the midst of social distancing, can we connect with our older and susceptible loved ones? How can we protect our families not just from illness, but from losing touch with the fore-bearers of our heritage we too often take for granted? I’d submit that there are ways of doing so and will outline some ideas below.
What You Should Have Been Doing All Along
There is nothing like the onset of a pandemic virus to give us the wake-up call that there is more we should be doing. That call comes whether you’re doing pretty well at recording your personal/family history, or have thus far avoided the pile of old photos and that “tell me about our family” conversation with your aging relatives. If we wait too long to protect those memories and have those meaningful conversations, we run the risk of losing them forever.
Let me give you our family’s example. Years ago, we videotaped interviews with the patriarchs/matriarchs from both sides of the family to capture their memories of the family heritage and elements of their own story. Our printed photographs are arranged in albums for events and different childhoods or boxed according to years. Other relatives put together binders of genealogy information. We’d done pretty well caring for our family’s unique story, but recent events triggered the question, “Is there anything else we should be doing?”
Then the other night, I suddenly remembered a box of slides hidden away in storage. I know they are of my grandparents and their family when the kids were mostly still at home, but I have never seen them. What a perfect time to not only go through them, but make them available to my elderly grandparents and the rest of the relatives who would love to re-live the memories. For us younger ones, it is a chance to see something of our parents’ lives that we’ve never known before. The slides present an opportunity to bless those loved-ones that we value, but don’t and can’t always take the time to honor with our attention.
What can you do? Think about areas that you’ve been waiting to tackle or simply forgotten about. Here are some to consider:
Have a Plan of Action
- Organize your collection into categories
- Determine which ones you will put your efforts toward
- Avoid being overwhelmed by starting with broad categories instead of individual items
- Decide how deeply you want to go, ie. organize in rough topics or labeling each item
Spring Cleaning the Archives
Organize &/or Clean Out
- Photos: slides, prints, digital, etc.
- Home videos or other recordings
- Papers: letters, cards, documents, files, etc.
Take Preventative Measures
- Transfer home videos to viewable format (VHS to DVD or digital format)
- Scan documents, photos, or other items you wish to keep or share
- Write down timelines, genealogies, special memories, etc.
- Record an interview with aged family members (video chat if under quarantine)
Protect Your Familial Connection
We often don’t realize our blessings until they are threatened. While we all gain a better appreciation for the value of good heath, toilet paper, enjoying entertainment with crowds of like-minded enthusiasts, or travelling across the globe, let us not forget the people part of our own story. Whether you do any of these things to show interest and appreciation in an elder’s story, to preserve your own memories, or to curate a family narrative for future generations, the effort you make will reap a reward of satisfaction, peace of mind, and personal connection.
Take advantage of this enforced time apart to take care of these activities that we so often push aside to “someday.” Now is the time!
Follow steps to record your own video within our blog: https://tellmystory.us/2019/11/25/the-gift-of-a-family-legacy/
For interview question ideas: https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/20-questions/