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Your Life story - a Treasure to give your family

By Jane Buttery

Have you ever considered writing down some of the experiences you have had in your life? Do you wish you had learned more about your parents lives? Have your children asked you about your life and that of your spouse before they were born? If you have any of these thoughts, you are ready to consider recording your own story. It is a gift you can give members of your family that they will treasure.

I use the word recording deliberately because, in this technological age, one of the simplest ways of relaying your story is by tape-recording it. I discovered this out of necessity some years ago when my father-in-law was in England and I wanted to write about the life of an older man as part of a university course. On a holiday, I spent just over two hours with him as he answered my questions and enlarged upon his own experiences and values. He has since died but we can still hear his voice and so can other family members in Australia, as it was easy to make copies of two cassettes. That convinced me of the value of a live recording. My father-in-law had lived through the reigns of four monarchs, two world wars and the depression; he gave me a slice of history as he related his story. You can do that too. Think of all the changes that have happened since you were born!

A simple way to start is to go through a person's life chronologically showing who was important, what happened, when and where. These facts are basic to every story and will reveal so much about the people who were important to you and how you shared certain events. Think of simple questions children have asked you and just answer them as you speak into the recorder. It is even easier if a friend asks you the questions so you can be prompted about what to answer.

Looking at a photograph album together can be a great way to jog your memory or a parent's. It will start an older person recounting a family story in some detail; for instance, an old school photo might bring back amusing memories or a picture on a beach can lead to a, "You remember when" story. The kind of details you can retrieve this way help someone's past life come alive as he tells it himself. Looking at pictures with my mother once, she told me so much about fashion in the 1930's and in wartime. It was fascinating information to a teenager but I never thought of recording it.

So often I hear people say, "I wish I'd asked my mother more questions and kept her answers." If your parents are alive, have those questions ready when you visit them. Take your tape-recorder along and get the answers, discover more about the family traditions and funny stories. After a family event such as a birthday party, wedding anniversary or Christmastime, record who was there and some of the things that happened. You won't regret it! Ten years down the road, your family will be so pleased you took the time to do it.

Oral history and story telling are wonderful ways to preserve memories. It happens all the time on radio when a reporter relates a story to bring it alive for us. Now you can do the same thing for your family. Having a recording can also be the incentive to produce a family story as a small book later on. You can include the photos that will bring that story to life for readers, years later. But that is the second step. The first step is to record a story as you or a relative tells it. Spend that time together and you will discover a story to treasure. If you want more information contact me.

About The Author
Jane Buttery is a retired teacher who has written 8 books, mainly for children and also interviewed and recorded life stories with six individuals. She has discovered that every life is interesting and most revealing about the times in which the people have lived.

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