almost every family gathering I’ve been to there is at least one session when all of us sit around telling “remember when” stories. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes tragic but they are ones we want to remember and pass on. I will admit that as time goes by the story details can tend to get a little fuzzy. In fact, one story that my brothers and I all remember is about one of us being a toddler and breaking the glass of a second story window and nearly falling out. Someone else caught him by the back of his jammy suit and pulled him back. Funny how it’s not real clear anymore who played what part. We try not to argue about it. Dates are also hard to remember. When did we take that first vacation to Florida? How long did we live in that house?
One year, as I was listening to my parents and aunts and uncles trade stories and debate the when and why of it all, I decided it might be good to write things down. I call it sort of a family timeline, like writing a history book about your family. It’s fun and I love to take it with me to our gatherings, in case I hear some new detail. The oldest generation in any family knows things that others do not, and face it, those things could be lost if not written down somewhere.
I took an ordinary notebook, of a convenient size to carry in my purse, and put a year on each page. I started with the year I was born but after interviewing my mom this winter I think I will start another section for the time before I came on the scene. I have a page for every year even if I don’t have anything to enter because sooner or later someone will come up with something for that year.
I get information for the timeline from lots of different sources. Last month I was getting rid of some old check registers and noticed some things I’d written checks for that sparked a memory. My calendars always have something in them that belongs on the timeline, even if I haven’t managed to be faithful in recording everything. Even an old “to do” list in a notebook has clues of projects, parties, and purchases that might be memorable. Birth dates, graduation dates, firsts of all kinds, when the measles struck, where you spent Thanksgiving – it all gets written down. My children laugh when they see that we got our first VCR in 1991. Their children will probably ask what a VCR is and they will get to have a fun conversation about how things have changed.
At the end of each year, during that calm period between Christmas and New Year’s Day I change out my old date book for a new one. Before I store or throw away the old one, I have a fun session reviewing the past year and putting things on the timeline. Year by year, it grows. Would this be a project your family would enjoy?