Because Story Matters

One of the unexpected perks of packing is the opportunity to discover buried treasure in your life's belongings. In this case, my mother's self published work "Two Beats in my Measure".

Which wasn't exactly buried under the bed or something, but neatly tucked away on the bookshelf in a forlorn and dusty corner. Sorry Mom. Your book deserves a better place of honor than that.

Years ago, when I was young adult my mother become more serious about putting pen to paper. She joined a creative writing class and wrote fitness articles for the local newspaper. In the year Celine was born she gifted her children, my brother Brad and I, with a self published memoir. A collection of short story type essays that, in her words "are pieces of our past worthy of recording."

In her usual flare for words she titled the work "Two Beats in my Measure" as my family of origin is quite musical (I am also, it just doesn't come out in this space). The book is dedicated to her children - "a look at your roots, your parents, and your past."

You can't measure the value of a gift like this.

For the past week I have been re-reading this memoir. Stories of my great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and myself as a child.

Leaving homelands to start a new life across the ocean. Choosing love "till death do us part". Farming, gardening, building, homemaking, music. Lives built with love, hard work, and faith.  

These are my stories. They belong to me. They are in fact some of my most prized "possessions" and they are as much a part of me as the blood in my veins. 

There are more family stories on our shelves, actually in boxes now. A whole book of Damien's paternal family history, en français. Xeroxed copies of tales "from the old country" and family trees handed out at long ago summer reunions. Stories I didn't take much time to read when I was younger but had the sense to save because I knew they mattered.  

packing our family stories

Upon discovering my mother's short memoir Celine started reading and declared, "there is just so much about you I don't know!"

She sees for herself, as she does when flipping through our photo albums, that I too was a child. That her active, but definitely middle aged, grandmother was once a young woman in love with a young man.

She learns a little more, through story, her family history and who she is in within that story. 

This is why story matters. 

Just this week I started the book Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. I've had it out from the library for a few weeks and have just now finally gotten around to reading it (I've been busy with some other books.)

Reading Storycatcher. Finding the memoir. Taking a month "to write about writing". Wrestling with my own evolution as a writer

Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidence and so I am thanking God for the impeccable timing (as usual) in bringing this book my way. 

And then, how doubly coincidental that just last week Katie posted this video on the importance of story and using journals to tell your story.

Too many coincidences to be just coincidences

I haven't read enough of Storycatcher to unpackage it all here and I'm not reading it as necessarily intended by the author (ie: doing the study questions at the end of each chapter). 

But I have gained this much from what I've read so far: story is one of the treasures I want to pass onto my children and grandchildren. The story of our faith, the story of their family, the story of who they are.

Because story matters.

Whether you take photographs, write in journals, blog, make memory albums or scrapbook - it's important. I know we all love to read about other people's lives, at least I do, and I'm so glad you are here doing just that. But take the time to chronicle your own family's life in some way.

Take time to tell stories, listen to stories. To learn, grow, and discover within the context of story.

Writing is only one way. There is photography, art, and quilting. And of course, oral tradition which seems largely lost in our culture except when we're sitting around the campfire. All the more reason to get outdoors with your family!  

Are you taking time to preserve and share your family's story? How do you do that?

PS. I hadn't planned to write this post. I felt compelled by all those "coincidences" that this was something I needed to write. 

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  • Rambling Heather

    Rambling Heather on April 13, 2011, 7:32 p.m.

    I am so glad that you wrote this post even though you hadn't planned on it, what a treasure you found indeed!! I get giddy every time I see that you have something new up. Your posts speak so much to my soul!


  • Hikingmama

    Hikingmama on April 13, 2011, 7:32 p.m.

    Both my parents have written narratives of their 'growing up' years and my mother is also an excellent geneaologist who has kept extensive family trees with details of the lives of our ancestors. We have also recorded my husband's grandparents talking about their younger years and family members. These are possessions which hold far more value in our family than anything material.

    We have much to pass on from other family members, but not from ourselves. So, whilst on an extended wilderness trip this summer without the interruptions of work, computers and cell phones, I plan to write our history for my own children.


  • Karen

    Karen on April 13, 2011, 11:45 p.m.

    Renee, I'm so grateful for your appreciation of those stories from the past - and delighted in your passion and expression in building similar treasures for your family. Love, Mom


  • Laura

    Laura on April 14, 2011, 12:36 a.m.

    Here is something related that I found last week and enjoyed: I do various things to tell our stories ~ journal, blog, scrapbook, etc., but I would like to figure out how to simplify it a bit. I'm somewhat re-assessing my life these days, figuring out what to delete, how to make things work better for me and my family and as always, striving to simplify. This is one of those areas that I am trying to figure out what will work best for me/us. Renee, I'm enjoying your story. I look forward to reading all about your move and all that goes along with this change in your life.


  • Naomi

    Naomi on April 14, 2011, 12:48 a.m.

    That's so lovely that your mom took the time to write her story! I would love to have something like that. For a high school project I interviewed a great aunt of mine and turned it into a biography. I really enjoyed that experience, and some day when the kids are a little older, I plan make writing down our family tree an extended assignment. For our family, I journaled until soon after we married. I've written a few times since then, but nothing much. Scrapbooking is one way I've recorded our stories, but probably the most emphasis I've placed on journaling once a month for each of our kids. Our family stories are intermixed with their individual stories, so they will learn a lot about our family as a whole when reading their journals someday, but if they last that long perhaps the grandkids will enjoy reading their parents' stories as told by their grandmother? Hehe, fun thinking about the future... anyway. Great post!


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on April 14, 2011, 12:40 p.m.

    Thanks for taking the time to craft this post of encouragement...

    We adore storytelling. When our kids were very young, I would tell them stories of "us" at bedtime. Now they request stories from daddy when he was a little boy (which confirm that his risk-taking, adventuresome spirit WAS knit into his being since he was three). Storytelling has been necessary for me in that I need to mine treasures from my childhood--for many of my early memories are shrouded in struggle, sadness. I'm discovering that our stories are wonderful to share--every day. I'm witnessing their hunger for stories when we visit relatives and their habit of asking for a story is repeated to Nana, Uncle Dave, Great-Grandma, etc. "Us" stories have taught them that each person is a wealth of stories.

    However, I wish I had the discipline to write out the stories of our children now while their young. I sometimes wonder if it's too late to begin. But how to accomplish this? I'm not sure... three more journals? I'll be working out a solution over the next few days to be sure!


  • Emily

    Emily on April 14, 2011, 1:06 p.m.

    I love this post. Stories in my famiy have been so important. One of my favorite memories of my childhood was lying in my bed, when sick, and listening to tape recordings of my grandfather's Louisianna boyhood, told in his own voice, of course. Later, he wrote a biography of those and other tales of his life plus stories of his father's boyhood. I treasure this book and I'm so grateful that my children, those who have had the opportunity to read it, have the chance to know and appreciate this side of their heritage.

    Several years ago, my husband video recorded my dad telling his own stories of his Louisiana boyhood. My children and our entire extended family- including his siblings and now their children (we made copies for Christmas gifting) watch this over and over and roll with laughter. This preserving of memories is so vital.

    I think blogging is a way of telling our stories. Sometimes, I get discouraged thinking that my blog is not "productive" or informative enough to draw large amounts of readers, as most of what I post is just "ordinary", everyday home life, but I hang on to my biggest motivation and that is using it as a way to record my life story for my posterity. I can find fulfillment and peace in that.


  • Kyce

    Kyce on April 14, 2011, 4:17 p.m.

    This gave me goosebumps. So well said. Renee, thank you for taking the time to write these thoughtful, helpful posts at a time when your life is in such huge transition. If you took a break and started posting a picture per day or something, I don't think any of us would mind. Actually, I take that back, I would mind!


    • renee

      renee on April 14, 2011, 5:53 p.m.

      Kyce, I have too much to say right now that is needful for me to write. But don't worry I have a month off scheduled starting the second week of May or so. I will be (as you recommended) posting photos only.

      Writing is really important to me and also our future livelihood so it's not something I just "take a break from" lightly. But don't worry - I will be. And you should know I writing here does not overextend me, if it did I wouldn't do it. It energizes and excites me and gives me a lot of joy. It's not a burden (smile). Having said that, I will still be taking a break during May to actually move and adjust a bit to life at my folks before starting back up again in June.


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on April 15, 2011, 3:18 a.m.

    This is a great reminder to be more mindful about recording our family's story. There are times when I wish I knew more about my own parents' upbringing, as well as my grandparents. My mom has made a couple memory books for me, but they are mostly photos and stories about my own life.

    When each of my girls were born I started a journal - a separate journal for each one - where I can record milestones, stories, love notes to them, etc. I don't write in it very often, but my hope is that it's often enough that it will give them a glimpse into their childhood when they are much older.

    We have another set of journals (again one for each girl) that we use to write notes to eachother. The notes are simple "I love yous" or "I'm proud of you"....they write (or draw) back to me. Again, we don't do this often (once a week, once a month...whenever I remember). My hope is that this will also give them a glimpse into their lives and their development.

    And then, of course, we have the family blog where I chronicle our every day adventures, our weekend outings, the silly and the serious. I also have a current photo project going - minimizing and simplifying the boxes and albums of photos we have into albums that tell more of a story. For example, I was able to choose certain photos from my life, birth through high school, that all fit into one album. This makes sitting down with my girls and reminiscing much more doable - we can pull out one or two albums instead of 8 or 9.

    This turned into a very lengthy comment....I'll be thinking about ways I can better record our family story. Thanks!


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on April 27, 2011, 3:06 p.m.

    thanks for your message. I came across your blog through reading your Mom's posting today on Inscribe Writer's online. I too started to write my story for my daughters, but somehow put it off due to other sidetrackings. Your posting has inspired me to get back to the notebook and start writing for the sake of my children and their children.


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