Sitting back on the sofa, I glanced toward my mother and noticed she seemed more alert than she had been over the last few days. As I now think back on the moment, I can't recall how the conversation began. But with a voice much firmer than she had several days before, mother began to describe a different time in her life. Her story weaved memories of her childhood, living with her grandparents in the family home.
Words flowed of her description of her paternal grandmother; a woman I had little information on. Discussing relationships with generations past and making remarks not previously heard. Little vignettes of lives intertwined and quickly captured for me to hear. I watched my mother tell her story, sentences spilling easily from her mouth as she caught a glimpse of memories held close to her heart. And I felt captured in another time, visually seeing my mother much younger, living a life long ago.
The afternoon passed too quickly and my mother's energy soon melted away as she fell back asleep. It was one of my last memories of my mother; leaving me with yet another resource for future family history exploration.
As the writer of the family, mother composed a little booklet about her life with her maternal grandmother Jennie. Over the years, several booklets followed provided for family members on holidays, birthdays and I gave them a quick glance but nothing more. At other times through the years, family trees were presented and mementos handed out. I gradually began to develop a stronger interest in the family keepsakes and histories but they were always tucked away in cabinets, no longer in sight.
And then one day after my mother passed, I started a little journey to learn about my grandfather. Many years since, the family tree has blossomed and the stacks of family records are overflowing. I tap away on my computer, searching through every genealogical website found. But my greatest research source by far, has been the little stories left behind by my mother.
Perhaps knowing I would some day finally listen to her, mother left hand-written vignettes about her life. Descriptions of the day her father died and her feelings of ambivalence toward her grandmother. Little sayings her grandmother passed to her; some with hints of wisdom and some with humor. Names and dates of ancestors neatly filed away, waiting to be noticed. Precious memories that provide new discoveries each time they are read.
On this Mother's Day and the weeks ahead, give both you and your mother a priceless gift: A tool for recording her life. A journal or tape recorder left with questions and open-ended prompts for exploration and story telling. Here are a few to get you started:
*What favorite memories do you have of your grandparents?
*Describe your family holidays: What did your family do for Christmas, Fourth of July and which holidays were your favorites?
*Try to remember stories passed down from your parents and grandparents about their childhoods.
*Describe what life was like for you and your family during World War 11 or the Wall Street Crash.
And for many more interview questions and prompts, I found these sites to be helpful: Genealogy.com, Family History Questionnaire and Rootsweb.
These are only a few examples, you can fill in with your own but it will no doubt open doors unknown. A treasure chest full of memories providing genealogical possibilities not found on any website or in any library: A gift given to your mother that will keep giving back to you.
Keep searching for answers,