By: Cynthia Hawthorne
The smell of old books and boxes of childhood memories, antique furniture, and Christmas decorations in your attic or basement may fill your heart with joy. Your children may not share that joy.
A lot of families today are more minimalistic and they enjoy sharing or donating their gently used items with those less fortunate to keep from living in clutter. In essence they probably don’t want your stuff.
“But wait,” you say. “What about Grandma’s wedding dress, Great Grandpa’s army uniform, or Aunt Bettie’s cookie jar?” No, they probably don’t want those either. What’s a loving older generation family member to do?
Well…instead of handing down “things” that take up space, you might give some thought to sharing family stories and pictures with them that don’t take up space. And as a bonus, they can then share those stories with their children.
Humans are natural born storytellers according to anthropologists. Where we once gathered around fires telling stories to educate as well as entertain, today we have an opportunity to do the same - and create a bond between generations with the same instinct that has served us well throughout history.
If only Aunt Bettie remembers the story of the cookie jar and why it was worth keeping, that story no longer exists and can no longer be shared once Aunt Bettie leaves this world. Maybe that cookie jar was made by hand and given as a wedding present from a relative who lived far away. And unbeknownst to anyone, it contains a hidden compartment in the bottom with a special letter. Or maybe she found it on the farm she bought with her husband. She brought it home and lovingly cleaned it up. Then they used it to hold their weekly grocery money or savings as they stretched every dollar as far as it would go and worked to pay off their mortgage early. Aunt Bettie’s family lost their home in the 1929 stock market crash and she swore that would never happen to her.
At holiday gatherings or family reunions, the elders usually gather together and share stories. They were brought up listening to stories and they have lots of stories to share. Every once in a while you may notice a child who is sitting at her grandfather’s feet. He’s telling her favorite story – the one about how he met her grandmother.
Our lives are full of stories. Some are of the everyday variety and some are more spectacular. Each one is uniquely yours and yours to tell. Did Aunt Bettie tell you the story of her cookie jar? Share that story with a family member and then write it down for others. Or you may have found a picture of Aunt Bettie with her cookie jar sitting on the counter in her kitchen. Ask her to tell you the story. And then you notice a face that looks a little familiar in the picture. “Aunt Bettie, who is that and what is he holding in his arms?” She tells you “That’s your Uncle Fred when he was a little boy. The chicken he was raising for the fair got out of the coop when he left the gate open. He found her the next day and chased her until he caught her and brought her home. He won second place that year.”Telling stories and sharing photographs doesn’t have to be a on