Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Personal Histories

Our parents' 50th anniversary is next month! My siblings and I have been working on plans for the big anniversary weekend/reunion off and on for close to a year. We'll be posting more ideas as the event approaches.

One of my contributions for the anniversary is to write my parents' personal histories. Neither one of them kept a journal and this past Fall I felt an urgency to record their lives. I started this process in November and I'm so happy to report that next week I'll be sending off their histories to be printed and bound in a book! What a relief! Although this project has been consuming at times, I have to say that I am so grateful for this opportunity. I have been blessed in numerous ways one of which feeling my love and appreciation for my parents grow and deepen. At one point, I honestly felt as if my heart physically changed. I was sitting at the computer and as I wrote and edited, my heart swelled for the two of them. Our many, many conversations will be treasures through the years. We cried on the phone and did a lot of laughing. I learned things about my parents and my grandparents that I never knew. I can't wait to share my parents' book with family members and for my children to read their histories. I have a feeling that my children will be inspired to follow their examples.

There are many ways to record a person's life history. I learned this quickly when I started to research how I would approach this project. Some of the ideas I found online just simply overwhelmed me. So, I decided to take my own approach. If you are interested in taking on such a project, here's what I did.

  • First, you have to get the "logistics" out of the way before you can move onto the more personal stories. Record their name, birth date, where, and parents' names. I also asked my parents why their parents named them what they did. 
  • We then talked about the neighborhood they grew up in. I recorded their childhood home address and what games/activities they participated in with their neighborhood friends. 
  • We talked about their elementary school years. I asked them about what they liked to do (hobbies/interests), what activities they participated in, what the names of their friends were, and what they liked to study. 
  • We also talked about their parents. I asked my parents to describe each of their parents to me. This was a special conversation. I learned things about my grandparents that I never knew.
  • I also asked my parents to share with me about their relationships with their siblings. What did they like to do together? What did they learn from their brothers and sisters?  
  • Another conversation was dedicated to their junior high years. I followed the same questions I asked for their elementary school years. 
  • We then talked about high school and along with the usual questions, I also asked about part time jobs. I learned so much about my parents' wonderful work ethic in this conversation! 
  • Another phone call was dedicated to their college years. My dad told me how at a young age he knew he wanted to be a dentist and worked so hard to prepare for dental school. I then followed up with questions regarding why he felt so strongly to pursue this career. 
  • We talked about their five year courtship and it was fun to hear their two sides. I also recorded how my dad proposed and details of their actual wedding day. 
  • I asked about my dad's service in the Air Force shortly after they were married. My mom told me about substitute teaching during this time and the arrival of their first child. 
  • Our conversations then shifted to their years raising their family. I recorded about their community activity, the many different church callings they held, their personal hobbies, my dad's dental practice, my mom teaching elementary school, and their friends. 
  • My dad is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I of course wrote down his conversion story along with my mom's feelings. I also recorded their temple sealing and the events surrounding this special day. 
  • We touched upon what they've been up to since retiring - moving to a different state, serving a service mission at the Provo MTC, my dad's work in the Provo Temple baptistry, etc. 
  • Finally, I thought it would be fun to end with a list of their likes - what makes them, them. This was a lot of fun. For example, my mom's "likes" include pearls, snowflakes, pussy willows, lady bugs, gardening, strawberry shortcake dessert, etc. I really feel like this list will help us preserve the little things about them that makes them so loved. It will be fun for the grandchildren to relate to them as individuals with loves and hobbies. Forever, when I see a lady bug, I'll think of my mother. 
I took a chronological approach and our conversations tended to address one time period of their lives. I would then type up my notes into descriptive sentences that flowed creating a story of their lives. Periodically, throughout the process, I emailed my parents the working draft for their edits and additions. At the end of the process, I scanned dozens and dozens of photos for the book. I used Shutterfly for the book layout and printing. 

Like I said, this was a HUGE project. However, it is one that will be cherished forever! 

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