At a recent meeting at Malago WI local author Helen Blenkinsop, who writes thrillers as A A Abbott, gave an inspirational talk on the importance of creating a family history, talking to your parents and learning about their lives before it is too late. For so many of us, it can be a great regret never having asked grandparents or parents about their experiences and realising, when they are gone, their memories died with them.
Helen has compiled an 80k word memoir for her parents, with comprehensive interviews and research, opening up another world for her family, a wonderful view into the past. As she talked about the process, some of the group were clutching photograph albums and, a few had even brought compilations of letters, journals and diaries with them to share. As the discussions bounced back and forth around the room, it was fascinating to note how some of the members who had not considered the importance of logging their elder relatives memories for future generations, become enthused, and this was a tribute indeed to Helen’s well-thought-out speech. She advocated keeping a diary, logging family events and day-to-day details: a useful record for descendants to discover how we live now. Someday, the cutting-edge technology we use today may seem as antiquated as the tape-recorder and the ubiquitous mixed-tape that for so many was once a way-of-life.
In the digital age, photographs are rarely printed out and it is all too easy if a server crashes for all those snaps of precious moments to be lost forever. Make sure your photographs are backed-up and take note (or tag) to identify the people in them.
We can learn from our elders, make use of their experiences, glean more about them and quite often realise how some of our own traits evolve from them. The surviving generations of the two great world wars rarely spoke of those years of suffering, ordinary people performing acts of bravery they would have been embarrassed to recall; inventing ingenious ways to exist on virtually nothing. Wonderful tales that could make their families perhaps realise how lucky we are in this affluent modern age.
How tragic it would be to only learn of incredible talents and long-ago adventures after the source of the information is no-longer around. The strangeness when the speakers at a funeral bring back to life remarkable achievements. The surprise as stories immured in the past are told; the unexpected exploits, the surprising diversity of a life now gone, making us realise how very little we really know about those closest to us, because we do not ask.