A few years before my mother died I gave her a journal and asked her to write down the stories and memories of her family and childhood that she had told me as I was growing up. Unfortunately, she only jotted down two of them before giving up on the project. With the birth of my grandchildren I realized that they would never know those stories, or the ones of my own childhood and that of their parents, unless I preserved them, but I was at a loss as to how to begin. Then I was given the opportunity to read and review Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life by Laura Hedgecock, and realized that this is the perfect guide for creating one's own "Treasure Chest."
Whether you are a writer or not, this book will enable you to preserve your family's memories and stories, either as an exercise for yourself or as a gift for family and friends. As Laura says in the introduction, "Ultimately, what matters most in life are our connections to family and loved ones... These connections are the marrow of our lives, sustaining and nourishing us from within... They also allow us to continue to connect, teach, support, and console after we're gone."
Each section of the book begins with discussion of a topic, contains a list of questions, thoughts or writing prompts to stimulate your own memories, and concludes with a story from the author's life that illustrates the topic of the chapter. There are also worksheets included to guide you to record your own information. Printable PDF copies of them are available for free download at cedarfort.com/memories.
Whether you have questions about what medium to use (for example: a paper and ink journal, digital journal, scrapbook, blog, etc.), how to find the time to record your memories, what to include or omit, or are concerned about the writing process itself, Laura addresses all of these issues in a way that will help you make your journey down memory lane an enjoyable and productive one. She also discusses the technical aspects of creating your "Treasure Chest," being as accurate as possible without over-stressing about conflicting memories (for example, when siblings recall some things differently), and not being afraid to admit if we don't have specific times, dates, or other details.
Laura gives excellent guidance on dealing with painful memories: how to decide whether or not to include them and how much to include. She encourages us to include stories that are humorous, like the time her son decided to try popping corn by filling a thermos with kernels and placing it in the microwave.
She points out that writing memories is different from writing a biography. As Laura says, "What we remember is our truth." We are not necessarily writing a memoir: memories don't have to be written in a cohesive fashion, nor do they have to be chronological. We don't have to try to write like our favorite author or use special language. What the author emphasizes most is to "Be yourself."
Laura Hedgecock has crafted an excellent guide to recalling and preserving memories, demystifying the process, making it fun, and something anyone can do. The worksheet questions unleashed a floodgate of my own memories and I found myself frequently interrupting the reading to jot them down. With each chapter excitement mounted as I began to look forward to creating my own family's "Treasure Chest." I highly recommend this excellent book.
Read an excerpt from this book.
Laura Hedgecock is a freelance writer and blogs her own "Treasure Chest" at Memories in the Wind and is a contributing blogger to Parents-Space.com and Redwoodssociety.com.
Besides writing, Mrs. Hedgecock enjoys spending time with her husband, two teenage sons, and her Springer Spaniel, playing soccer, nature photography, and finding her roots. Learn more about Laura Hedgecock on her website.
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