Archive for the ‘personal history’ category

Child’s play

February 20, 2008



Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness
of a child at play. Heraclitus

One evening recently I had been engrossed in a book. When it was time to go to bed, I turned on the yard lights and let the dogs out, and was surprised to see that snow was falling, filling the air with large, fluffy flakes and coating the ground with glistening crystals. I stood quietly for a few minutes in wonder at the silence and beauty.

The next day I found myself remembering how I loved snow when I was a kid. We kids were experts at observing and discussing snow. If the snow was wet, we knew it would be good for snowball fights or snowmen (as we called them in those days). But was it going to warm up? Would our creations last?

The energy we threw into building a snowman or a fort, rolling up those heavy balls and lifting them up! But we thought nothing of it; we were strong. And we were full of pride when we were finished.

If the snow was dry and fluffy like it was the other night, we knew it was no good for snowballs. If a few inches accumulated, my brothers and I and other kids from the neighborhood would go to the Highline Canal, a large irrigation ditch a half-block from our house. (It’s empty in the winter.) We knew every spot where the bank had a slope rather than a drop-off, and we hauled our snow saucers to those spots. We would push and spin each other down the slope, trying to throw others off their saucers or get enough momentum to go part-way up the other side.

Writing about play adds a whole new energy to personal history–the energy of joy, freedom, and creativity. It can be a great topic to explore if you feel bogged down in “grown-up” memories.

I hope you will comment on this post and and your own stories to this discussion.

Reflections for stimulating memories:
What are your memories of playing in snow? Of playing in general? Who did you play with? Where did you go to play? Did you play games like dolls, baseball, or basketball, and/or did you just make up the games as you went along? What did you learn from play when you were a child?


No ordinary life

February 4, 2008

Everyone has dozens of stories, large and small, happy and sad, funny and painful, that shouldn’t be lost because you think your life is ordinary. It is not. Your stories will bring alive times past for your descendants and enrich their lives by knowing the family stories of their ancestors (that’s you someday).

Ronnie Bennett,

So many older people believe that no one would be interested in reading their life story, because they have led just an “ordinary” life. So they wonder: Why go to the trouble of putting it on paper?

In truth, there is no such thing as an ordinary life. Every person

  • Loves and is loved by people along the way–and lives are changed in the process
  • Meets many challenges and overcomes most of them in their unique way
  • Learns valuable life lessons that future generations will need
  • Lives through amazing changes in culture and history
  • Contributes to the larger society–whether through work, raising children, church or social involvements, or hobbies.

Your descendants will want to know who you were and what you were like–not just your genealogy, but your stories and your wisdom. Knowing about you will tell them a lot about themselves.

Life story starters:

1. Take the statements above and do a little reflecting or writing about one or more of them. Who has loved you, and whom have you loved. How has that changed lives? What challenges have you met in your life, and how have you coped with them or overcome them? What wisdom have you gained? How has daily life changed in your lifetime? How have you contributed to our society?

2. Imagine being able to talk with your grandparents or great-grandparents. What questions would you ask them? Write your questions down. This will tell you a great deal about what your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will want to know about you.