On November 1, 1919, my grandmother, Frankie, graced the world with her presence. Over the years of being the oldest grandchild, I heard every story I thought there was to hear. Well, I was wrong. It seems my 95 year old grandmother still has many stories to tell, and for that I am grateful — grateful that my children and grandchildren are able to share in the memories my grandmother still has in that fabulous mind of hers.
At 75, I gave her a journal called “My Grandmother, In Her Words.” A few weeks passed and I asked if she had begun to write in the journal. Her response was that she would much rather talk to me about her life than try to fit it on the few lines allotted in the journal. That afternoon I stopped by for a visit and told her, “I am here…. start talking.” I was hanging on to her every word as she began sharing her life. After 90 minutes of stories, I knew that I could only hope to remember all that she had shared that afternoon.
We both agreed I should start journaling, recording and taking pictures on what we called “Mama and Me Sundays.” I purchased a voice recorder and plenty of batteries. Every time I visited I would ask her to tell me a story from her past. Over the years she has told me things that will stay with me forever and that I have enjoyed sharing with my children. I consider my knowledge of her history fulfilling and priceless.
Buying the voice recorder was the best investment I have ever made. Now, 20 years later, I am able to refresh her memory when something from her past is mentioned that she can’t quite completely remember. Also on the tapes are some of her famous recipes that she no longer makes because she no longer can remember all of the ingredients. When I mention that I can play the tape back for her, she quickly says: “Oh no, you play it back for yourself and drop off dinner later!”
With the holidays in full swing and family gatherings happening all month long, what better time to start preserving your family memories, especially with elderly family members. Sitting in front of a camera is not everyone’s favorite thing to do; a voice recorder or even a cell phone is perfect for beginning the process. Plan to make recordings available for anyone asking for a copy. Having family history documented is priceless and will mean so much to so many for years to come.