The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Preserve Your Life Story for Future Generations
BY JAMES SOLHEIM
I had just written Grandmas Are Greater Than Great, a multigenerational book for grandkids and grandparents to share when I asked my eighty-year-old mother to write her life story.
Standing on a rug her mother had made many years before, she said, “Oh, there’s nothing to write down.”
Still, she agreed to try.
She emailed her first draft to me several weeks later. Just a few paragraphs in, I nearly dropped my laptop computer in astonishment. Tales and characters that only she knew filled each page—a life story that our family almost lost because she had “nothing to write down.”
As a child growing up in North Dakota, she branded cattle and delivered lambs. She dressed the dog in doll clothes and put the cat and chickens in the doll buggy. She shot gophers. Packed into her mother’s quilts, she rode a horse-drawn sleigh to a one-room schoolhouse in winter.
Don’t we wish our great-great-great-grandparents had recorded the “unimportant” moments of, let’s say, sailing to America to start a new life, or finding food while escaping from slavery, or chatting around a campfire? Like theirs, your life will be fascinating to future
generations—every detail, no matter how dull you think it is.
So write it down. And don’t skip the “unimportant” parts.
For example, if you wrote “I made cookies with my mom,” now write on a separate page the detailed story of how your mother and you made cookies, with the exact recipe and utensils you used, going into depth on smells and impressions and the things she said or showed you how to do. Intentionally choose the insignificant things—because generations to come will see them as essential.
Future family members will want names. They’ll want to know how people worked and played, and what happened in local businesses and organizations that closed decades ago.
Unless you write your story, your family will walk into the future knowing nothing about its past—just as our family had been walking on my grandmother’s rugs without knowing the history in them. (But now we will know—because my mother is writing it down.) So write!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Solheim is the author of Grandmas Are Greater Than Great, a book for children and grandparents to share—a gift for grandparents and for kids. It’s the story of one family, told through its grandmas and spanning the entire history of the United States. His website is full of information about all his books. www.jamessolheim.com.
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