The Gift of Your Story
By Jo Strausz Rosen
I’ve been thinking about the different ways in which we can document our lives, using technology, media, and books to leave our memories and stories for our loved ones. You have probably seen or even filled in some of the Grandparents’ Journals found in bookstores or have been gifted with custom memory books by Mixbook. The Pioneer Woman suggested, “The 10 Best Memory Books for Grandparents to Give.” Popular products include “Letters to My Grandchild,” and “Tell Me Your Story, Grandmother.”
When my father, Lloyd, celebrated his 95th birthday in 2012, my son the podcaster captured his grandfather’s bright and witty humor as he answered a variety of questions about life. Listening to this audio recording of his voice brings us such joy.
On a recent birthday, I received a thoughtful gift from my son and his wife – a one-year subscription to Storyworth.
Zak wrote, “Bub, this is a very cool story-gathering machine that will result in the book of Bubjo a year from now. I’m so excited to read what you come up with. As you write, imagine your great, great, great, great grandchildren pouring over these pages to discern the life of their ancestor (you).”
As you might have guessed, “Bubjo” is my family moniker. I was quite taken with the idea and wanted to share it with you. Each week, I get an email prompt from Storyworth with a question that Zak chooses. I respond to these emails with my written answers, often triggered by the memory to ponder in a paragraph or two. Since April I have been asked, “Describe one of your most memorable birthdays.” “What is one of your favorite trips you have taken? What made it great?” “At what times in your life were you the happiest, and why?” “Who are the funniest people in your family?” “What is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you?” “What is one of the bravest things you’ve ever done, and what was the outcome?” “What is your idea of perfect happiness?”
I find the exercise of searching my memories and answering these questions an amazing way to capture my thoughts. I am grateful to type in my memories and look ahead to conversations about these various Q&As with my family. I can even attach photos to the emails, which I plan to do. At the end of the year, I will be receiving a beautifully bound memoir with my stories. I enjoy seeing what the questions will be each week and because I love to write, it’s a useful way to provide the next generations with my herstory – answers to things they may care about.
Shari Cohen feels grateful to be teaching a creative writing class once a week at Meer that allows our residents some unique ways to capture their memories. She finds the residents and staff to be so friendly and appreciates the hamish quality and warm ambiance of the building. During class, Shari suggests various topics like historic events, Pearl Harbor and Father’s Day. She says most of the people in the class write down their thoughts in long hand and some like to share aloud. One is keeping a diary. Shari said, “the eight residents find it cathartic to look back and think about their past and then write down their thoughts and remember their family members who are no longer here. The residents enjoy this time and are respectful of each other’s memories. “
As Father’s Day approaches, or birthdays, and other celebratory milestones, I would give the gift of Storyworth or a memory collection book like, “Memories of a Lifetime, How to Collect and Share Your Personal and Family Experience.” These make terrific gifts for you and the ones you love, so your stories will become gifts for others!”