How to Make History This Holiday
Her mints were my dad’s absolute favorite treats. I think she mostly sent them for him, but as I grew older I came to love them as well. The first Christmas I hosted my parents, I made sure to get the recipe.
Do you know how recipes get passed down? Just like family stories – you have to ask about them and listen intently to the answers.
I don’t need any encouragement to engage in family stories now, but once upon a time, the very idea of asking questions and listening attentively to the generation was something we shall call forced family fun.
It was the 80’s: The decade of big hair, hammer pants, and bulky video cassettes. One summer, my gramma decided to borrow a video camera and stage an interview with herself, my grandpa, and her three grandchildren. She had enthusiastically enlisted a co-conspirator/camera woman (her neighbor and friend) and was eager to direct our interview and then go photo by photo through the ornate albums with old-timey photos of stern women and proud, sober men.
Her directorial efforts put Robert Redford to shame. She assigned each of us three grandchildren a variety of ‘spontaneous’ questions to ask. After our prompt, a grandparent would respond while we feigned interest.
It goes without saying that my siblings and I failed miserably. We were teens and pre-teens, and there was just no fixing that kind of attitude. Our questions were asked with dripping sarcasm, and my gramma’s well-planned answers were met with stifled guffaws, eye rolls, and bored gestures that, looking back, make me wonder about my capacity for human interaction at that age. Evidently, my social graces would blossom much later in life.
Gramma, on the other hand, acted a little too much like Jackie O. She sat up straight and spoke with calculated delight about her relatives coming over from Cornwall, England, and about meeting my grandpa – an apparent happy accident involving a ride to a local baseball game. My grandpa, also forced into this horror show, talked about his first dog, his mean aunt, and leaving school after having an affair with a teacher.
O, the humanity!
I recently put this gem of a video, affectionately called “Snuggles” after the dryer sheets (long story), on DVD so I could watch it. Amy Schumer has nothing on me at 13. That video is pure hilarity. But it’s also packed with historical information that I would have never had if my gramma had not forced us to be so cheesy. I now possess the ornate family photo albums and have a reference for each person in there.
He also brought us to his old high school where we literally walked the hallowed halls as he showed us his old classrooms. I can’t say it was as fun as an amusement park, or even watching paint dry, but when we got to the science room, he confessed to pouring something from the chemistry stash out the window onto a truckload of flowers below, inadvertently killing the to-be-planted flowers.
Finding this hilarious, I happened to mention it to my gramma at the dinner table. No bueno. A kid is a kid forever.
Sorry about ratting you out, dad!
I think he was grounded.
Christmas is the perfect time to force some similar historic family fun. With the new app from StoryCorps, you can still use technology to record interviews with loved ones and then upload them to the national archives (or not; just save them for yourself). StoryCorps makes it very easy by providing a list of questions based on who you are interviewing and allows you to select the length of the interview.
Selfies are also part of the fun!
I wish I would have had this app the morning my maternal grandma and I settled in with our cups of coffee. Our coffee conversation turned out to be a three hour walk down memory lane as she poured out her life story from the beginning. Lucky for us, she liked to write and had written it all down years before.
There are also several sites that provide basic interview questions for families, so if you’d rather do it old school, then ask your questions and write down the answers. Or, stage a whole production like we did back in the 80’s. Nothing says posterity like bored teenagers forced to talk to eager older people.
My 13 year old and I tried the StoryCorps app one evening. He sounded as interested as I did in the Snuggles video, but when he asked about how my husband proposed, we both had a good laugh.
He asked about the proposal and I responded, “We were at one of our favorite restaurants on Halloween hiding from the trick-or-treaters. He asked me to marry him between asking me how my dinner was and to pass the salt.” We both chuckled. In all fairness to my husband, this was before You Tube, viral proposals, and push presents. There was no pressure to be elaborate, and he is a very practical man.
“Dad is not very romantic,” said my son. “Hey, Dad! Maybe you misunderstood! Maybe Mom just said yes to passing the salt!” He found himself hilarious.
Story telling: What better way to infuse this holiday with humor and history.
Grab a family member or friend, steep a cup of tea, and serve these delicate mints.
You’ll be making history this holiday.
Peace & Light,
The Busy Buddha
Edited By: Sara Neyer
These little darlings are a perfect compliment to tea and conversation.
FIND THE RECIPE HERE!
What's a funny story from your past that your children or loved ones would appreciate?