From the Past to the Future

I am now aged. Although my accumulation of years is obvious, what is not as apparent is the inner changes that are taking place. My interests, abilities, and expectations are all undergoing revision. I feel an urgent need to define the new me: Time is running out! Is there anything now that I can be a part of and that could be of value to present and future generations? What must I do? What am I able to do? What do I want to do?

Taking the easy route, I decide that what I want to do is apt to be what I can do best. The answer, then, is easy, too: I will be a custodian of family history, of the stories that reflect both the everyday lives and the dreams of people I have known and loved. Recording those stories will be the invaluable ingredient.

For centuries, the history of a family or a people was passed down in the only way possible: orally. Person to person, generation by generation, the precious stories were told, memorized, and passed on. Now, I can take my pick of recording methods, using one or all: books and pictures, videos, and computers.

But it is all storytelling, and the old oral tradition can still be a part of it. Whenever my family gathers, in the midst of the laughter and fun, I will “remember when,” sharing the stories I know. Passed on with love, these memories will be part of what binds the family together, today and tomorrow.


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10 Responses to From the Past to the Future

  1. Jim Taylor

    Dear Marjorie,
    A few years back, I edited a book by Donna Sinclair, called “Worth Remembering.” Her point was the same as yours — we have stories, they are worth remembering — and if no one bothers to draw them up out of our memories, they will disappear. Your extended family will be much richer for your efforts to capture and pass along the stories that they all know and treasure.
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      Hello, Jim. It would be interesting to find Donna Sinclair’s book. Always useful to get another’s viewpoint. I certainly believe family stories and history are both valuable, and worth passing along. Thanks for your encouragement.

  2. My husband’s academic training is as a folklorist. I learned the importance of all family histories — not just the elite ones — from him when he was teaching his students in the Ozarks how to contribute to the university archive he founded. The telling of family stories helps people to reflect on who they are, where they have been, and what they can do about the future — exactly what you are doing now. When there are troubles, people tend not to tell stories either because they are too stressed or because they want to forget. I believe that taking the time to work through that resistance to telling the true story gives the stories to come a much firmer foundation. I am wishing you joy as your family’s archivist!

    • Marjorie

      Fortunately for me, Laurna, I have a lot of support from family members in my attempts to be an “archivist”. The stories my parents and grandparents passed on to me, increased my interest in my ancestors – and helped me see them as real people. Did you husband find that the family rebels are often easier to find than more conservative ones?

  3. I look forward to your story telling, as always.
    In my 35-year journal, I have always found the easiest stories to remember and record with affection are those about people’s actions, remarks, little confessions that surprise me, revealing some unexpected aspect of themselves. We are taught to not reveal. Why? For me, this is what makes us adorable, funny, surprising — and vulnerable. But when we grow up and out of our ego-shells, then real, honest and loving connections can be made with friends and family.

    • Marjorie

      Barbara – Nothing as fascinating as people, eh? There may be – but I haven’t found it yet. There is a reason that I’m always the last to leave our dining room. The food is good, but the conversation (and listening) can be so interesting.

  4. Brenda Wallace

    First, happy belated birthday, dear friend,
    Our new pastoral care minister speaks of herself as being a “story catcher.” It would be fair to suggest that the title belongs to you, too. Stories are so precious. My journals contain many forgotten moments until my memory is jogged and senses come alive with sounds, sights and, even, smells and tastes, sometimes — marking the occasion from the past. I love your stories and will try to catch them, every time I can!!

    • Marjorie

      Brenda – I remember your journal, and understand how memories bring back sounds and smells. A friend brought me pictures of the prairies, near my farm home and I heard meadowlarks, and saw the large owls swooping through the dusk to land on a telephone pole. History lives through memories and stories. I try, sometimes with success, sometimes with mediocre results! That is life.

  5. Hi Marjorie.
    Your observation of the importance of “stories” is keen. So often we view our history as mere collections of facts, statistics, names, events, but it is the story that we remember. It is the story that holds our attention. It is the story that contains the history.

    Working in technical fields, I was always interested in how people progressed from apprentice to master. The best explanation I found came from Patricia Benner who did pioneering work in aviation and nursing. link although she called it “context” or “paradigm”, but the story was the container.

    Early learners are given rules. Later they are given stories. The best of learning (and teaching) is always embodied in stories. Is not Jesus better remembered for his parables than for his pontifications.

    Carry on, oh great story teller!

    • Marjorie

      Always nice to hear from you Jock. Glad you enjoyed this story. Thanks for pointing out the importance of the parables of Jesus, in understanding what he was teaching. They embody his messages, in a easy way to remember. I do believe that it is our stories that carry our history, and that this could be important to those who follow.