Part of the fabric of your history is the history of your parents, grandparents, and ancestors. Their story is part of your story. The tragedies, the victories. Stories of love and loss.
Certainly, many have buried their past, even changed their name and moved on. But I believe even the most broken and heart wrenching family histories can produce defining moments in our present chapters and future legacies. Instead of ignoring our past, or never being curious about them to begin with, let's seek to know, understand and preserve as much as we can about who the people were that are inextricably linked to us through our families of origin.
I love a good love story as much as the next hopeless romantic, but I also have a strong dislike for shallow plot lines in movies, or predictably sweet and sappy love stories. I told a friend recently, "I am unpredictably predictable." I end up where everyone predicted I would. I have a predictable outcome in most things, but the way I got there was completely crazy. My journey to the predictable ending was ridiculously unpredictable. I prefer this in the books I read or the movies I watch as well. I want the predictable ending. I want things tied up with a nice pretty bow at the end. However, I don't want to be able to predict the journey and I want to see characters that had to struggle and even lose some on their way there. I want to see conflict rising and impossible situations looming. I want to see struggle and real human feeling. But then, I want wrongs made right, situations rectified, lives redeemed, and love realized.
Many of us have parents, grandparents or even great grandparents still living. You don't have to watch a Jane Austen movie to be enraptured by an epic love tale. Ask your family for their story. Don't be satisfied by "Oh, we met on a blind date." Where? When? Who introduced you? Ask questions, remain curious. What is normal for them, might be unique and magical to you. They might remember facts and interesting details they had long forgotten.
My grandparents in 1946. They were married for 51 years when he passed away in 2000. His picture hangs near her bed now. She says "goodnight" before going to sleep.
I remember I was interviewing a couple who had been married for over sixty years. I asked them how they met. "We went dancing," she said. But I stayed curious, was patient, asked questions, and listened. I found out they danced competitively. They were dance partners and their love blossomed. He grinned and said "I still dance with her. We just move slower." I discovered that originally, he had been dating her friend. It was all there, all in the fabric of their story. "I didn't know half of this about them," their granddaughter told me.
Share your story if you have one. Share even the details that you don't think matter. Or ask your grandparent or great grandparent to share their stories. Even if they have lost their love, it may be comforting for them to share about those early years of love and sharing. Ask aunts and uncles for what they know about their parents' stories.
The very best way to preserve family history is to record it. Set up a good camera and video tape the conversation. Even if your relative is camera shy, just put the camera off to the side, make sure it has space and good battery life and then focus it on them. But you can sit in a way that they are looking at you, not at the camera. Ask a few ice breaker questions and then go from there. Let them direct the conversation. As things come to their mind, let them share. Go on a journey and hear about their experience in another century, in another time, in another place.
You won't regret it.
If recording your family interview isn't an option, then take good notes or ask them to write down their story and anything they remember. I still believe more comes out in conversation than in a written commentary. Then scan your notes or their written account and keep the hard copy as well.
Perhaps you have had to say "goodbye for now" to your love. As you are missing them, why not honor them by recording your love story for your children and grandchildren? Write down not only the good, but the hard things. Write down what it was that first attracted you to each other. His humorous pick up line, or her laugh that could fill a room. Write down all the details, where you ate out, what you did for fun. Write down how you almost broke up and then came back together. Write down the ebb and flow of a life lived and love kept.
Preserving your family history can mean a rich legacy for generations to come.
For now, I leave you with this clip of Jackie and Charlie. They are a married couple and also competitive dancers, now in their 60's. They danced their way into each other's hearts and are still quick-stepping together. I would love to know their story!
I hope it puts a smile on your face. I know it did mine. #dancinggoals