Keep Your Family Memories Alive

Written by Diane Baker

Successfully keep the family history. Here's advice on how to take a trip back in time.

In the classic story "The Time Machine" by Ray Bradbury, two boys meet an elderly man blessed with a treasure trove of stories that carry the boys to a past they are eager to visit again and again.

Generation's Advice:
Get out a map of your parents' old neighborhood and mark the most important places. If you live in the area, take a walking tour, or drive the route.
Classes in writing family history are available at many community centers. Check them out.
Ask your children to see if they can get extra credit in their schools for writing a family history.
Define family inclusively; don't forget step-grandparents, or any other member of another generation to whom you've felt close. 
Bernard Adler and Bea Goldberg, siblings both in their 80s, stepped inside their own time machine when they guided their children and grandchildren on a field trip through their childhood neighborhood.

The excursion included tales of long-ago best friends, favorite playgrounds, cherished ice-cream parlors and the joyful discovery of their unchanged, still running grammar school.

The prize was finding the Adler family name still embedded in the sidewalk in front of the store their immigrant parents built in the 1910s.

Another family journey took the Perry's from the San Francisco area to Nevada. Scott Perry, who owns a painting company, traveled with his 7-year-old son Wesley and mother Kay to visit Kay's childhood small town. On the day of the visit, Kay's stories brought the now-abandoned area back to life.

Wesley loved it all until they came to the family cemetery. When introduced to the ancestors he'd only seen in faded pictures he pronounced the whole place "creepy."

"Even so, it was wonderful," recalls Perry. "My mother seemed to have a sense of relief to be able to pass along this lineage. We're going back this summer."

For those who can't physically make the trip, there's always armchair time travel.

Make a list of questions for your children to ask grandparents and record their answers as part of a family oral history project. Try coaxing reluctant older relatives with specifics such as: What were Sunday mornings like? What kind of chores did you have to do?

Go through jewelry boxes or scrapbooks to keep the conversations going. Get out the old scrapbooks and make a family project out of labeling old photographs. Don't fret if your family history is short. Every small story keeps the threads of our generations from fraying with time.

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