School has been back in session for a few weeks. It’s funny how our early school experiences color our sense of time and seasons for the rest of our lives. Reminiscing about those old school days is a great way to bridge the generations and start some fun conversations with your family. You can even work on these questions while you’re driving the family taxi cab to school, lessons, and sports practices. In fact, that’s a great time to have some meaningful conversations and build your family legacy.
Let’s do a round-up across generations and I’ll give you some examples to get your thoughts going.
One of your earliest memories about school
Being teased at the bus stop, early encounters with loyal friends and merciless bullies
The imaginative, kind English teacher who made those classics come alive with dramatic readings. She pushed us because she knew we could do it.
Quirky teacher or friend from school
The junior high teacher who took on the crazy experience of coaching 29 7th graders in reenacting the kidnapping of Helen of Troy. How great it was to learn how to sword fight like the Greeks and Trojans and how to fake a really dramatic death scene. We loved it!
Favorite or most dreaded school subject or grade in school
Geometry. Proofs. Need I say more?
Field trips, recess, lunchtime memories
Hanging from the monkey bars, rolling inside tractor tires, kickball, trading lunches with your best friend. Spam? Deviled Ham? Tortillas and beans? School cafeteria Spanish rice—yum! I’m not kidding, are you going to eat that? Snorting milk out your nose after your friends cracked a joke. Bet that made you laugh again right now.
Travel to or from school
Did you walk, ride a horse? Take a long bus ride? Was it uphill both ways in the snow? You know the drill, but dig a little, especially for the unique, memorable, that “one time I’ll never forget…”
Some folks didn’t have a typical school experience. Here’s an account from Verena Andregg Mahaney, who grew up on a ranch on what is today White Sands:
(Homes on the Range: Oral Recollections of Early Ranch Life on the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, edited by Peter I. Eidenbach and Beth Morgan, pg. 90):
My Uncle Frank would go to town for supplies. He would go to our teachers at Alameda school in Las Cruces, and he would get work for us to do—homework and books and stuff. Mom would kindly teach us, and then he’d take all this back, you know, when he’d go back for supplies again. He’d take it in to the school and get more work and have ‘em to grade it, and we got report cards like everybody else….
Sports, music, drama memories
Doesn’t matter whether you were a star, a dud, an ever faithful participant or tried to avoid these experiences. Talk about it, what stands out? Can you call up the incredible brain numbing stinging of getting hit in the nose with a basketball? If not, you were a better catch than I was.
What kind of student were you?
How has this played out in the rest of your life? Do you like to learn? Are you still the “class clown?”
What is the most important thing you learned during school?
Think about Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
This from my daughter Alexis: Having the mindset that even if something doesn’t come naturally , whether a subject or a sport, whatever it is, you can still work hard and do a good job.
Describe your best friend from school
If you could go back to any school year which one would you choose and why?
Have you ever gone back to visit and thank a teacher?
What do you dream about being/doing when you grow up?
If you could invent anything what would it be?
What do you like most about school?
This month has been full of hard things for so many people — tragic storms, earthquakes, fires, etc. How do you write about hopes and dreams that have gone up in flames, been drowned by sorrow or circumstance or crumbled to pieces in the shaking of life? I’m not talking about the dreams you wake up from. The hopes and wishes kind.
Here’s some ideas for writing about and dealing with the hard life memories or broken hopes and dreams. They’re part of your story too.
-Describe the dream
-Relate what happened as if you are on the outside observer
-Go back and write about it with the emotion and feelings
-Now, try writing a new ending, what could have happened, what should have happened, what would have happened if….
Author Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries wrote an insightful article entitled To Get Over Something Write About It for the Harvard Business Review. His basic premise, upheld by research spanning over 100 years is this:
“The combination of reflective writing and talking about certain key experiences creates a powerful force to help us surmount difficulties and can hasten our capacity to come to terms with (or to digest) events and move on.”
The health benefits of writing about your life are extensive and span the whole of mental, physical and spiritual experience. How you think about the circumstances can help settle it in your memory in a way that is realistic about your life and memories and also helps you move forward with hope, joy and new dreams.
Or maybe it is. Sometimes the hard things we experience become fuel for some humorous remembering. Baxter Black, one of my favorite humor columnists, regularly turns tales of ranch accidents and disasters involving large animals or recalcitrant transportation into deep- down- laugh -out -loud humor.
This yanks my funny bone because it’s part of my memory bank too. In fact, there are quite a few deposits under this category. You know how people flip houses these days? Well, my parents went through a stage of flipping horses (note—this is not the same as flipping cows at midnight, that’s a whole ’nother story).
My brother and I, as resilient little scrappers, often had the job of “getting the kinks out” of whatever project horse or pony was bunking with the regulars in the barn. In retrospect this taught us both some great life skills we’ve used in a variety of situations from work to home. To this end I’ve ridden, more or less successfully:
-A Morgan with her head so high from driving I could kiss her between the ears. She would have liked to knock out teeth and bloody the nose of whichever human rider was trying to train her to lower her head and relax a bit. Note to self—a battle of the wills seldom succeeds with either horses or people, try a different method.
-Shetland ponies. A succession of them. I will NEVER buy one of these “children’s models” for any future grandkids. These have to classify as the worst bucking off experiences ever. It does not matter if your feet almost touch the ground. You will still fall. Hard.
-A high strung quarter horse mare who introduced me to the whole experience of getting the wind knocked out of you. To her credit, once I was lying on the ground, staring up at her furry belly and gawping for air she stood immobile, tickling my face with stiff whiskers and snuffing at me.
-A small Grulla mare with a genius for solving physics problems on the fly. She had mastered the Olympic sport of scraping a rider off under the lowest branch she could find. Her gift for instantly analyzing the trajectory and height of a rider compared proportionately to the height of a branch qualified her for a degree in higher level math.
-The carnivorous horse who pinned me against the truck so she could steal my bologna and mustard sandwich.
Here’s a couple links to some folks with a gift for seeing the “funny” in life:
Anytime Mike Rowe shares texts and emails from his mom—tune in. They share a similar sense of humor and will help you re-awaken your sense of the ludicrous.
And of course Mr. Baxter Black, check out his regular column or Critter Tales on the website:
One amazing life, one chance to live it, share it, tell it. Don’t miss out on helping to save a life by capturing some of your grandparents’ memories. Today I’m giving you 10 questions, print them out, get the grands comfie over cake and coffee after lunch on Sunday, then hit “record” on your phone. Ask the questions. And just listen. Really listen! Follow the rabbit trails by all means, but come back to the questions. It will be one of the best hours you’ve ever spent, I guarantee it.
For more inspiration go to https://grandparentsday.org/
“Every day can be Grandparents Day. The official commemorative day is the Sunday after Labor Day. If you’re celebrating Grandparents Day throughout the year, these resources can help with ideas on how to Do Something Grand.”
Rev. Berndt — Good Samaritan Society:
“It is an incredible gift to be the recipient of someone’s legacy. It can be life transforming. …. Our lives can be shaped by the legacies that others share with us, but in turn, we have a responsibility and a challenge to share the wisdom … and experience we have gathered over the years.”
Reminder: Special Offer for Grandparents Day
Do you have amazing grandparents? This Sunday, September 10 is Grandparents Day so in celebration I’m offering a 15% discount on any personal history service booked during the next two weeks. Maybe you want some one on one coaching to jump start your own memoir. Maybe you’d like to give Grandma and Grandpa a photo story book complete with a bit of their personal story. Or perhaps you’d like to honor them with a complete life history. Whatever option you choose, they’re sure to be delighted and now is the perfect time to start.
Contact me at Karen@rememberingthetime.net or 575-323-1048 for a free consultation to talk about the possibilities.
Do you have amazing grandparents? Sunday, September 10 is Grandparents Day, so in celebration I’m offering a 15% discount on any personal history service booked during the month of September. Do you need one on one coaching to jump start your own memoir? Maybe you’d like to give Grandma and Grandpa a photo book complete with a bit of their personal story. Or perhaps you’d like to honor them with a complete life history.