Tuesday, December 6, 2011


How's my mental health today?

I'm not sure. I'm still dwelling on the issue of story telling and writing.

A Bible verse keeps popping into my head.

Never forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Deuteronomy 4:9 (NLT)

I've tossed an idea back and forth several years - namely that of writing a bit of a family history for my kids, nieces, and nephews. In the fall of 2008 I put together a family tree poster that included nine generations of documented information. The poster is huge - larger than I have wall-space for. It only took two years for the information on the poster to become outdated.

My intention has been to write the family history as well as an updated family tree in a format that could be easily maintained and revised. I haven't followed through to this point because the task has felt daunting and overwhelming.

What information do I include? How detailed should I get? Do I collect stories from my siblings and their kids to include some of their perceptions of what has occurred or do I only present my perception and understanding of the story? There are few family members left of my mother's generation, and all but my mother are in Germany. How do I effectively gather their memories? Some of the stories I have have been passed down to me orally. Do I include them as fact or as unsubstantiated memories of ancestors?

Among the documents I have is a diary written by a great aunt written during the early months of the USSR occupation of their village at the end of WWII. Do I include the details or just describe her experiences? I also have a lengthy letter my grandmother wrote to me describing the trip she and my grandfather took in 1966 when they came to visit us here in Canada for several months. She had a wonderful way with words, but they're all  written in German. Including these documents would involve a lot of translating. Should I translate and include the stack of family tree documentation I have? That's a lot of work I'm not sure is worth doing.

In 1984 I spent two months in Germany during which time I began a travel journal which eventually just consisted of bulleted notes. In those notes I wrote down my impressions and memories of all the relatives I had spent time with during that trip. Do I include that? One of my nieces is enamored with history. Should I invite her to work on this project with me? She's very busy with her studies; is it fair of me to ask her to take on more work, or would I just be taking advantage of her enthusiasm for things historical - especially family history?

And what about the intended audience? What kind of information would my kids, etc want to have? Would they value a family history document or would it just get tossed into the bottom of a box? Would they read it? Would they update it with their stories and pass it along to the next generation? Should I consider these questions before beginning the task?

Who benefits if I write this story? Does it matter?

Are these questions my way of procrastinating?

I've been looking for a meaningful writing project. Is this it? If it is, why does it scare me?

If I'm going to do this I better begin while my mother is still alive!

Now what?

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness." 
-- Alex Haley, Roots

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