We keep photo albums, but too often we leave no record of why we kept the pictures.
Share your story: Write about your life
By Ken Reynolds
Smoke Signals has often urged readers to write about their lives. It has become commonplace to marvel at how much the world has changed since ___ (fill in the blank with any reference point you choose), so your descendants (including your middle-aged children) really don’t know what your school years were like, or why you worked at a particular job all your life—or made a mid-career change. But we believe that someday they will want to know.
The world is changing, and it is happening quickly. A common complaint among older adults is that “my grandchildren have such different interests than I had. They don’t want to know about how I lived as a child.” That is probably true, but honestly, when you were young, were you interested in how your grandparents lived as children? But at some point—it usually comes well after middle-age—grandchildren may get curious about what grandma or grandpa was like. By then, it is more than likely too late to ask them.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find your great grandfathers diary or journal? Do people keep such things anymore? It may be too late for a diary, but it is not too late to record one of your special memories.
No, we aren’t suggesting that you write a book. We urge you to write about one incident or event that meant something to you. Describe it and describe what it meant to you and why. An excellent way to start is with a photograph. Write about the day that photo was taken, and why you have kept it all these years. You will be surprised at the memories that exercise will stir from hiding.
If you write about one memory, it is a good bet that it will recall another time or incident that you had forgotten.
Do not think about what you are doing in terms of writing a book. It is just a simple story describing one day, or period, in your life. Surely there is one that stands out. If you keep on writing, you may soon have enough stories to make a book.
In the June issue of Smoke Signals, we feature an example of a man who has written a book about his life on the Books pages of the News section. Jim Smith took it one story or memory at a time. Then one day he realized he had written so many stories that he wanted to collect them into a book.
A book about your life does not have to be an autobiography. It can be just a collection of things you recall about back then. Look at it as your small contribution to cultural history. Your grandchildren already marvel that you did not have a cellphone when you were in high school. Why not wow them with what you had? Or what you did not have. Make them jealous of the good old days.