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2019 Dec

Family Lore

Sharing family stories builds bonds and creates a legacy.

What are your favorite holiday memories? Maybe it was when you were little, lying in bed the night before Christmas, unable to sleep, just imagining all the wonderful gifts you would find under the tree the next morning. Maybe you remember baking Christmas cookies or taking a present to your favorite teacher.

For me it was all about the family gatherings—and the food. No matter what religious holiday you celebrate, food is the communal component that brings family and friends together. In my family, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding comprised our holiday meal. In your house, maybe it’s baked ham or roasted turkey. What makes holiday meals so special is the love that you can taste in every bite.

My family was full of storytellers, so conversation during holidays dinners often turned to funny stories and anecdotes that became almost legendary in our family lore. Uncle Jack was full of merriment during holiday gatherings and told the funniest jokes. My memories abound with silly stories and maybe a few tall tales told around the holiday table.

Sometimes I worry that conversation is becoming a lost art. People just don’t talk as much as they used to. Texting is the new talking, but I find it cold and impersonal. Likewise, the tradition of family storytelling is also becoming less important in this new age of tech gadgets. I suppose we could ask Alexa or Siri to tell us a story, but it won’t have the same meaning as one told by your mom or dad or favorite relative.

So what we can do? Here’s an idea: let’s vow to tell stories this holiday season. Inform everyone in your family there will be a storytelling hour as part of your holiday celebration. This way people—kids and adults alike—have time to think of a good story to tell. Maybe it’s a funny family adventure—or a look back in time to when Grandpa served in the Navy. Stories about family history can help kids feel connected to their roots, as well as teach values like courage, resilience, and humility.

Can’t think of a story to tell? Get you some old photos and use them as memory triggers. Even if your story is just reminiscing about a great vacation you had together, it’s bound to prompt conversation about things you saw and learned on your trip and interests the vacation may have sparked in your kids.

Perhaps this foray into storytelling will encourage a budding writer in your family to start compiling family stories into a journal or a family website that everyone can contribute to. There’s no time like now to record your family’s memories and stories since before you know it your kids will be grown and having kids of their own. Storytelling is a legacy that will live long after we do.

It’s easy…just start with “Once upon a time…”

Have a happy, safe holiday season and thanks for reading.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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