From the Pen of Dr. Tim Morrison, President and Writing Coach of Write Choice Services, Inc.
When I wrote Letters to My Sons: a Father’s Faith Journey, my sister asked if I wrote anything about her. I told her that I had. She wanted to know what I had written. I answered, “Wait until the book comes out.” It was an honest and innocent answer, but not to my sister. Her anxiety rose. What had I said about her? Had I engaged in some form of “payback” to the shenanigans she had put me through?
As she discovered when I sent her an autographed copy of the book, I had been kind and gracious and honest – no payback, no way. But Bonnie did offer that my recollection of events and her memories of the same events differed. That did not surprise me. Think of trials and the stories told in courts of law. What happened according to prosecution and what happened according to the defense will sometimes lead juries and observers to wonder if the two sides are talking about the same event.
This difference of viewpoint does keep some folks from writing down memories, sharing family stories. It shouldn’t. We each see things differently based upon our point of view and our perspective of an event and those present at an event.
I recall one family Christmas celebration when I was in college. I left the MacDonald clan gathering after having been there for a couple of hours and traveled thirty miles to join my brother’s wife’s family celebration. I wanted to share time with Bub and Sandy and my nephew Mike and niece Karen. Once I got there, I met Sandy’s cousin Jan who was two years younger than me. We wound up doing the dishes together as we continued our conversation.
When Mom heard about my helping to wash dishes, she decided that I knew Jan was there, left the MacDonald family gathering just to meet another woman. I could have stayed and helped in the kitchen if I had been all fired up to wash dishes. It didn’t matter that I had helped in the kitchen prior to the feast nor that I had spent several hours talking with aunts, uncles and cousins and Gram nor that I really wanted to see my brother, sister in law, niece and nephew before going back to college. Same event – two different perspectives.
Keep this in mind over the next few weeks as your families gather or you have an office party or neighborhood party. You may find yourself sharing an experience – your story – and someone else in the group says, “That’s not how it happened. I was there, too, and this is what happened.” Most likely you are both correct – you each hold different perspectives.
Holidays are times of family gatherings. Stories are told. Traditions are continued or adapted. My mom always made scalloped oysters for Christmas dinner. My wife’s family always had corn soufflé at family gatherings. Scalloped oysters and corn soufflé can be found at our family gatherings and our sons continue the tradition.
I don’t know why Mom always made oysters. I wish I would have asked. The corn soufflé showed up at a church dinner Marta’s family attended and the recipe was written down and shared and now passed on to the next generation. When Marta and I would travel to Akron for Thanksgiving or Christmas, her mom made sure she had the ingredients necessary for scalloped oysters so I could make them and continue my family tradition.
When I am with families in my role as a hospital chaplain at the time of the passing of a loved one, I encourage all those present to tell stories about their loved one. Through stories, the loved one will continue “to live on” in their individual lives.
If a spouse has died and the couple has been married for a long time, I will ask, “Do you remember when you first saw him/her?” Without fail, a smile crosses the spouse’s face; a chuckle follows and the story begins. There have been occasions in which 60 years have passed since that meeting, but details are included. The adult children (and sometimes grandchildren) are astounded and amused by the memory. There have been occasions in which this is the first time the adult children heard of how their parents met. Once, after listening to an amazing recollection of a first meeting (which led to marriage three months later), I asked the widow, “What would you have done if any of your children had done that?” Without hesitation she declared, “I would’ve killed them.” Laughter – rich, hearty and prolonged – filled the room.
Tell your stories. Share them with each other. See how your siblings remember an event or how a neighbor remembers a shared experience. Let me encourage you to take one step more: record them or write them down so that the stories can be passed from generation to generation.
If you need help making them read well, contact Write Choice Services. We enjoy helping families tell and preserve and pass on their stories.
All of us who are Write Choice Services wish for you and your family and loved ones a joyous, rich, warm and meaningful holiday season and a happy new year.
Be a guest columnist
We are planning our publishing distribution schedule for 2016. If you would like to be featured as a guest columnist in the coming year, shoot us an email. You don’t have to have a specific topic in mind. We will work with you to discern what would make for a good article and we will discuss when during the year would be a good time to feature your writing.
Remember, Write Choice Services works with individuals to write the book they have always dreamed of writing. Write Choice Services also generates amazing, high quality resumes to help leverage your job search. Call us at 678-464-6702 or email us today so we can help you get started on that next portion of your life adventure.