The other day my daughter finished reading Under the Blood Red Sun, by Graham Salisbury (Laurel Leaf, $6.50) about kids living on the island of Oahu around the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She liked the book enough to chat about it on a long car ride to see her grandparents. I thought this was the perfect time to bring up family history.
It was one of those moments when history, family and family history collide. You know what I mean. My dad, who is eighty-five, and my daughter, who is thirteen, donâ€™t have a lot of things in common. He doesnâ€™t use the Internet, watch Disney movies, or keep up with teenage fashion. He is, however, a walking, talking history book.Â Dad was in his early twenties when the bombs fell on Pearl Harbor and quickly joined the war effort. He was eventually stationed in Hawaii. When I mentioned this to my daughter she just turned and stared for a moment. â€œReally,â€ she said. Suddenly all their differences didnâ€™t matter. They had something in common.
A few days ago I read an article in the New York Times about a man, Arnold Blume, who still works as a substitute teacher even though heâ€™s in his eighties. It was a great piece about the historical value of the older generation. Rather than sit with a textbook or a published non-fiction book, he teaches from the heart telling the kids about what life was like when he was their age. He mesmerizes eighth graders with his stories. Itâ€™s a lesson for all of us.
Each of us has a story to share. It doesnâ€™t matter how old or young you are. Think about the key events that influenced your life. (Get ready, Iâ€™m going to give you hints about my age.) My family moved to the suburbs in the early 1960s just like millions of other folks. I remember watching John F. Kennedyâ€™s funeral on television and can recall the Challenger disaster. I also remember what you could buy for a nickel. Of course, I donâ€™t bore my children with my reminiscences, but I do insert little details when the time is right. Family history is about more than life dates; itâ€™s also about the stories of our lives.
When was the last time you sat with a child and tried to pass on a little of your past? Those youngsters have their own tales to tell, so for every fact you mention ask them something about their lives. Here are a couple of ideas.
- Start a multi-generational book club by reading the same titles your grandchildren or children enjoy. It gives you a starting place to begin sharing family history.Â
- Teach your children or grandchildren a card game from your youth and then ask them to teach you one they know.Â
- Share a family recipe. Let the little ones help in the kitchen and create a piece of the past.
It didnâ€™t take long to bridge the generation gap once my dad and daughter started talking. Try it and youâ€™ll see what I mean.
Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.
Maureen Taylor is the “Photo Detective.” She writes about family history and photography on her blog at www.photodetective.com.