Whenever one of my deceased grandparents has a birthday, we gather together for ice cream and family stories.
All four of my grandparents have passed away. While I have so many memories of them, my children don’t. In fact, some have never even met them, others met them at a young age and the memory is hazy. How do we preserve the memory of our grandparents for our children? For me, it was through family stories.
It is hard for us to sometimes feel connected with our family that has passed on. It can be even hard for our kids. Phrases like “OK, Boomer” are popular for a reason. Often the other generation has been stereo typed to tell family stories that begin with, ‘when I was you age I…’ paid for college washing dishes/ married my high school sweetheart/ said sir and ma’am/ walked to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways.
My wife Kristie is amazing and has a wonderful affinity for family history. She came up with the idea that every time it was one of our grandparent’s birthdays, we would have their favorite dessert. Then we would gather around the table and tell stories about that person. Stories they remembered, stories we remembered, stories passed on to us from others who knew them, or their own writings found in journals.
This week I am actually presenting on this topic at the Family Story Virtual Summit. This event will feature 30 top authors, videographers, artists, musicians and others to teach how to capture and share your family story in a unique way that is both entertaining and meaningful.
If you can’t make it to the virtual summit on March 5th or 6th, or maybe you are checking out this page a little late, they have an option to come back and view the recordings later. Plus you get a whole bunch of other bonuses. Here is 20% off the VIP All Access Pass that gives you replays, extra training, a digital workbook, and live Q&A calls with some of the presenters.
During my talk, I will be sharing some of the stories of my grandparents and how to utilize story better. The best practices to use to make this a success. Two of tips are also found here. Use stories and use dessert!
“The human brain is hard-wired to communicate through stories. And through stories, we understand many aspects of life including social norms—that’s how we learn what is right and what is wrong, through lived experiences and stories.
Stories make learning effective, and that is why children engage so well with storytelling. Kids can’t wait to hear a good story because they’re naturally curious and want to learn more about the world.”
Tom Corson – Knowles of Publishing
If you doubt Corson’s quote, think back to the first five books of the Old Testament of the Bible. Name something from those books that stands out in your memory. Even better if it provides a principle or teaching to abide by today. Got one? I am going to go out on a limb here and say it was from either Genesis or Exodus.
Why is that? Well, mostly because Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are books heavily steeped in the law. Chapters on sacrifices, camp organization, and lamentations of Moses. There is actually some good stuff in there. Stories are the things we really remember; the things people make movies about.
For our grandparents, once these stories are forgotten, they are gone! Additionally, a part of them is gone too. If you remember the Disney movie Coco there is a theme that I loved. Where the dead were able to remain in the afterlife as long as their picture remained on the ofrenda, as long as someone remembered them.
One of the tools we use to keep track of all these stories is Family Search. If you have never heard of this program, I have a great article that can help you get started on Family Search by organizing some of these family stories.
This message really hit home when I think about one of my last visits to my Grandpa Cleveland (Jack). Garren had just turned a year old. My grandpa was in a group home and starting to go through Alzheimer’s Syndrome. It was a great visit, but it broke my heart seeing him not be a person he once was and my son would never really know him the way I knew him.
A memorable thing happened a couple weeks later. My mom went to visit him and as she was tidying up she found a note. Grandpa Cleveland was an aerospace engineer. He was smart! He was always the one you went to when you needed math help. Now, as Grandpa’s mind began to dull and his memory fade, he wrote down two things he wanted to remember.
How could I not do something to make sure I remember him? I wanted to make sure Garren and all my other children would remember my Grandpa Jack. (We updated what we called him because Grandpa can get confusing when you are referencing multi generational relationships.)
Luckily my wife has a love for family history. She preserves memories, records genealogies, writes down family stories and loves to hold on to pictures!
Now, I am not really one for writing things down. I blog occasionally and post my socials intermittently. But I love food and telling stories. So Kristie combined all our loves. Every year on each of our grandparent’s birthdays we eat their favorite dessert.
Grandpa Jack loved Cherry Cobbler. Luckily, I do too. Kristie posted the recipe for her Cherry Cobbler on her site, Our Kerrazy Adventure. My Grandpa Jack was immensely kind, he was often a surrogate father to my cousins and half brother, he loved his wife, he loved music (especially Lawrence Welk).
Speaking of Jack’s wife. Grandma Marylee was also kind. She used to call me “GradyPoo”. Every summer she would pay to take all her grandkids is Disneyland. I have so many memories in that park because of her. I was afraid of the kids as a kid, so I would often sit with her while everyone else had fun. Grandma Marylee was in a wheel chair ever since I could remember. I asked her once, “Doesn’t it make you sad that you come to Disneyland and can’t go on any of the rides?” Her reply seared into my heart as one of my earliest examples of Christlike charity. She said, “GradyPoo, seeing that smile on your face and knowing that was the one that put it there is all I need to be happy.”
Grandma Marylee made an amazing Angelfood Jell-O cake. It is one of those desserts that you have to eat fast at family get togethers, because it won’t last. My mom still makes it and having it on Grandma Marylee’s birthday instantly takes me back to Christmas at her house. Gifts for everyone with the tag saying it was from Santa. Usually they were odd gifts she got from mail order catalogues. (Think Wish.com before the internet.) Kristie also shared this recipe on her website too.
My paternal grandparents made it a little easier with their favorites. My dad said, “I don’t think I can remember a time when we didn’t have Chocolate Chip Ice Cream in the freezer”. So on Grandpa George Russell and Grandma Margie’s birthday we make sure we have a carton on hand. they are probably where I get my love of ice cream.
Some of the best Chocolate Chip Ice Cream I ever had was during a Kerr Family Christmas. My Uncle Greg mixed up some homemade ice cream. I was a little nervous to try it because I never say anyone make their own ice cream. I thought they were putting the rock salt into the ice cream mix! It was heavenly. Soft, smooth, and just enough chocolate chips.
If you are looking for some extra ways to tell family stories, write down your own story, or capture stories as they happen; you should join me and a bunch of other amazing speakers at the Family Story Virtual Summit.