As we head into the Christmas season I want to share the first of several guest posts that will continue throughout 2022. My goal is to give you an outlet for sharing some of your family memories and encouraging others in their memoir and family history writing journeys. In my home, we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus and the wonderful gift he’s given us by having a weeks-long party with music, food, fun, and gift giving. We’ve cultivated our own traditions, blending memories from our own childhoods with the “new” ones we created with our own now-grown children over the years. We’ve also renewed our focus on the holy reason for this celebration. I love reading about others’ traditions and sharing the good memories that have drawn them together as families. Hope the following guest post from author Roslind Miles helps you remember joyful times in your own families. She is working on her Grandmother’s memoir. Thank you Roslind!:
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. The food, family visits, and eggnog are intoxicating. As a girl, my mother did everything she could to get us at least one thing from our lists. On most Christmases, she got us the number one thing on our lists plus new underclothes and pajamas. So it’s no surprise that when I had children I did the same thing, but even better.
My husband was amazed at how important it was to me to get everything on their lists. The children were allowed a list of five things in order of what they wanted the most. But our finances allowed me to get it all. And I filled their stockings with knick-knacks, as well as replenished their underclothes and pajamas! Needless to say, our Christmas tree was swamped with gifts! I gave my children the kind of Christmases I saw in movies. Or as close as possible. I mean, there were no gas-powered cars with bows in the driveway. But there were plenty of Hot Wheels!
On Christmas Eve we gathered around the tree with hot chocolate or eggnog and everyone would open one present. I always had to be sure that no one opened their main gift, the number one item from their list. My mom always spent the night on Christmas Eve too.
After the children were asleep, usually accomplished with a teaspoon of brandy in their eggnog, my husband, mom, and I would put out the best gifts without wrapping paper on them. No wrapping paper meant Santa himself visited our house! My children absolutely loved it!
I started cooking on Christmas Eve and made all the holiday favorites; ham, pot roast, candied yams, mac and cheese, greens. I baked peach cobbler and made icebox pie. I usually bought a couple of other pies like sweet potato and pecan pie. Dinner was always ready by Christmas morning! Plates were served all day!
And while the children are adults now, and have children of their own, the gifting has been scaled way down. My children are more frugal than I was. Thankfully. I smile as I say this because my grandchildren are much less materialistic and don’t expect much for Christmas. They really enjoy seeing me on the holiday. My children have made the holidays the best time for combining all sides of their families together for food, conversation, and hugs. Now we focus less on commercialism and more on love. ### You can find Roslind’s book Mommy Are We Rich? celebrating the importance of family on Amazon and connect with her via FaceBook at @RosNubianSunflowerMiles.
Ready to start sharing your family’s story? Connect with me today and let’s talk, I’d love to hear from you.
Talk about transitions! And I don’t mean from your summer shorts to your long johns. No, I’m talking about real, life-changing ones. This is the state of the family email thread running with the transition theme back and forth across town and country between my three adult kids and us: new jobs, house selling, house hunting, more new jobs, navigating new cities, traveling, and connecting with far-away family.
Interspersed with all this are: crazy memes, cat pictures (we have 12 and 1 dog between all of us), requests for prayer, good book alerts, invites to watercolor or play games virtually, “How do you do…?” questions, and just simple “I love you’s”. We love to rejoice in each other’s small and big successes, laugh over dumb stuff, grieve together when we’re sad, and support each other in all life’s changes. This is the stuff my family communications are made of! How about yours?
Our 21st-century families may communicate a little differently than our ancestors, but the same emotions and family concerns that our grandparents experienced remain. Letters and journals make terrific material for family histories.
Their pages somehow carry the voices of their writers in remarkably tangible ways.
Have you ever read a letter from a parent when they were young, or maybe a grandparent? You can almost hear them whisper down through the years. You can feel their presence and personality coming through to touch your heart and mind. It’s powerful stuff!
Even though my communication life is pretty digital, I’ve been making it a point to send more handwritten notes this year. It’s just something I want to do personally because it delights both me and the recipients. Sometimes these notes include everyday details, sometimes it’s thoughts about world happenings or an encouraging quote.
Try it: share a recipe, a memory of a good time spent with friends, something goofy the dog did, be a little transparent.
I even have a small booklet of floral postcards that can be colored (a gift from my daughter-in-law) that I color with a gorgeous set of artist’s pencils gifted by another daughter, then send snail mail to friends and family. I know- it’s my version of refrigerator art! But honestly, don’t you still love to get “real” mail? Me too, so I send some as well.
The same “feel good” moments that we get when reading a note from a friend or rereading old family letters can be shared with others in our family to strengthen, to give a sense of belonging and place.
I’ve worked with many people over the years and one constant is the letters. Without fail, both memoir and family history authors speak of the impact of letters, both on themselves and the family members who then read their work. They often include meaningful copies of several in their books. Some books are primarily letter-based and help to bring the voices of those who went before into the warm firelight of the family circle.
During these upcoming colder winter months consider spending a relaxing evening or two pulling together your collection of family journals, letters, even notes on paper scraps and napkins. I’ll bet you have a story there, hiding in those pages, silently calling to be shared.
Will you listen? Who might need to hear these voices?
Family history and memoir projects begin with simply gathering what you have. It doesn’t have to take long and is just a place to begin. Looking for creative ideas and direction? I’d love to visit with you and talk about your story. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wishing you the best! Karen