Friday, June 3, 2011

Recording a Verbal Legacy

Back when my daughter was little, I often heard the refrain, “Tell me another story.”

Most parents have heard that plea. Kids are made for stories.

Rather than come up with yet another story about purple dinosaurs, sponges wearing dorky shoes, or puppets who scatter cookie crumbs, why not tell a real story? One about family.

Family history can provide great resources for stories. Just ask Tracy Leininger Craven. Somewhere in Tracy’s family history was the story of Regina Leininger, kidnapped at a young age by Native Americans during the French and Indian Wars. This story had actually been published for young readers in another version by librarian-turned-novelist Sally M. Keehn—a fictionalized account from 1991 entitled I am Regina.

Regina’s story, however, belonged to Tracy’s family, and had been passed down from father to son for generations. In Alone Yet Not Alone, Tracy shares her own family’s heritage, putting the focus on Regina and her sister Barbara during and after this harrowing experience.

Other families, of course, have such adventures in their personal history. In my husband’s own Gordon family lurks such a story—one for which I’ve yet to piece together all the details.

Your family’s stories may seem bland by comparison. But take heart and keep looking. Your search may seem as tedious as “line upon line” but somewhere, whether in a dusty newspaper archive or in past military records, you will surely stumble upon something in your family to pass along to those curious young minds.

Don’t discount those resources right at your fingertips: your own older relatives. Take a tape recorder or camcorder with you and drop by for a visit. Ask questions that get people reminiscing. Capture those memories now while these walking volumes of history are still here to share with you.

I will always be grateful that my brother took the initiative to interview our father’s sister on the occasion of a significant birthday just before she passed away. I’ve listened to that battered old cassette tape countless times, gleaning every clue to our past that I can find. The older generation in this family was always closed-lipped about their past, but for some reason my aunt was in a talkative mood that day, providing a rare glimpse into a past filled with people long gone. Her family was not one to pass down stories, so every little word she said proved a precious commodity.

Don’t let the story line run dry in your family. Capture those stories while you can. Above all, be sure to pass them down. There will always be a young one wanting to hear another story. Let them be stories of your own family heritage.

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