Friday, November 28, 2014

Write for your family. Leave a written legacy.

At holiday time, we all look back on those times when we were young and had parents, grandparents and family that gathered around tables at someone's home. We remember the stories we heard, the faces of those who are gone now, the laughter that roared from the adult table as everyone remembered a favorite narrative and heard it again from a  brother or another dear family member.

We all have family stories. Some might be sad or bad, but we also have many stories of our family history that make us who we are. My father was a story teller. My uncles were also story tellers and my brothers told stories I'll remember all my days. 

Those of us who like to write have a responsibility, I think, to keep those stories alive. The days of several generations sitting on the porch or around a dinner table listening to family stories are fading away. Families are scattered all over the world. Grandparents get to see their grandchildren on Skype for a few minutes, but that  is a far cry from conversing face to face with plenty of time to share.

That is why I am passionate about writing those stories, leaving a written legacy for the future. Even though I have no children, I have always been the family historian and have documented many of the stories of my father's family in a  hard bound book: Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council and  His Descendants.
I have also written a collection of short stories based on stories about my immediate family -- father, mother and my sisters and brothers. One day I hope to publish them for my family.

For over a week I have been listening to a memoir by Pat Conroy, the southern author of The Great Santini and Prince of Tides among other excellent books. He writes a detailed story of the life he has led with his abusive father, mother he adored, his siblings who all suffered from growing  up in the dysfunctional family. One of his brothers killed himself. A sister seemed to suffer from mental illness. Pat, himself, had several breakdowns and several marriages. All of this made for interesting reading, but those are not  the stories most of  us want to tell about our families. 

My students want to tell about how life was when they were kids. They want to tell about living without electricity, going to school in one room with all ages of students, the games they played when they were kids, their first car, their first date and many of those turning points they would tell their grandchildren if their grandchildren were available. They also want to tell about  where they went to school, their military lives, their work, the accomplishments and even their failures. I hope they will also tell the sad stories, the hard times that helped mold them, the loss of loved ones and beloved things. I hope they will  tell about the time they spent with grandparents, what they remember about those family members. 

One of my students told me he decided he should write about  his life when his little grandson said, "Grandpa, I know about your life. You had to  fight Indians and live in a  log cabin."

It is hard to entice young people to care about anyone or anything but themselves once they are in their teens. But those kids will grow up and one day they will be so happy to read about their family history. 

In March, 2015, I will teach a class on writing life stories at Tri-County Community College. If you are local, check with the Community Enrichment department, Lisa Thompson, to register. 


DJan said...

Very good advice, Glenda. I have so many memories of my own early years that need to be written down. I try to do this with my blogs, but mostly I write about what's happening now. You remind me to capture those memories. Thank you. :-)

Gay said...

Thanks, Glenda, for this post. I'm so glad you are writing all our family stories for future generations. I was thinking about all our times together growing up while I was driving home from spending Thanksgiving with you and they were such special times.

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, your writing on your blog is so good. I catch glimpses of your life, but I can imagine that stories about your childhood and those years of high school and into adulthood would be most interesting because you are an interesting person.

Try to write just three pages each day about your family or yourself when you were a younger person. I'll bet you will get so involved you will look forward to the writing time each day.

Glenda C. Beall said...

Thanks, Gay, for leaving a comment. I hope all the family will enjoy my stories and I hope I will get motivated to publish them before too long.
Thank you for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. Loved having you here.

Vagabonde said...

I started my blog as a way to tell stories about my life in France and my family, but I have written more about my trips, far and close. I did write about my mother when she was a child in Paris and up to the time she met my father, but then I stopped. Now I have to start writing about all this again, and I’ll try. In my case, if I don’t write about my family in France, my grandchildren will never know about it. So I have to remind myself of this.

Glenda Beall said...

Vagabonde, I would love to read about your family and your growing up in Paris. What I love best about teaching folks to write is learning their history and hearing their unique stories. We all have a story and only we can tell our memories. Thanks for taking time to read and comment here.