Capturing Mom’s Stories
How much do you know about your mom’s (and grandmother’s) childhood or early adulthood? Moms always have so many stories about you, your siblings and other family and friends, but they don’t always talk about themselves.
Or, if they do, how much has been captured so that she will live on with your children and their children?
Now is the time to capture those stories about her childhood and young adulthood. Capture them before it is too late!
Pulling Those Stories out of Mom
Prepare just a little before you start talking with your mom. You might want to ask questions about:
Family pets. Did you have a childhood pet? What was its name? What were your favorite things to do?
Christmas and other major holidays. Do you have pictures of early holiday gatherings? What are some of your favorite stories? What were some of your family traditions? Did you have a favorite song or food?
Activities and hobbies. What did you like to do when you were growing up? Did you have a favorite sport or activity? Who were your best friends? What did you do together?
Personlity. What were you like as a child? Were you a tomboy? Or were you more introverted and a bookworm? Did you sing or dance for family and friends? How would you describe yourself?
School. What was your favorite subject? What activities were you involved in – sports, band, choir or other social groups? What do you remember most about grade school or high school? Who was your favorite teacher?
Role models. Who were your heroes as a child? Who did you consider a role model? Who would you have liked to have met? Who did you meet?
Family events. What were the big events that occurred when you were growing up? Who were your favorite aunts, uncles or other family members? What vacations did you take? What was the most memorable? What family weddings, divorces, deaths are important to you? Was life easy?
Wedding. How did dad propose to you? How did you plan and prepare for your wedding? Why did you choose the people you did for your bridesmaids and wedding party? How did you find your wedding dress?
Historic events. Was she or her family around during WWII? What about Vietnam or the Gulf War? Where was she when JFK was shot or the Towers came crumbling down?
Ask About Photographs
Find photographs of your mom or grandmother when they were growing up. These typically help to jog the memory and help the stories start to flow! Be sure to find out who is in each photograph and what is happening.
Ask for copies of the photos so that stories can be visually illustrated. Photos can be scanned for use in videos or in online or printed documents. If she is reluctant to let the image go, take a picture of it with your smartphone.
Capture Stories on Video
It might be a little tough to take notes if your mom has lots of stories! Consider videotaping her as she is talking. Today’s smartphones take wonderful videos! You may want to get a tripod for your phone/camera so that you don’t have to stop for rest breaks.
Interview Tips and Techniques
- Don’t say, “remember when…” She might assume you remember the details and not relate the whole story. Remind her you weren’t there.
- As she is talking, be sure to ask specific questions and have her clarify – she may assume you know what she means.
- Don’ be afraid to use silence during the interview/discussion. When you stay quiet waiting for her to go on is when some of the really good stories may come out!
- Oftentimes, once you get her started, the good stories just keep coming out!
What to do with Those Stories?
Before you start, have in mind some ways you want to use the stories you capture. It probably won’t be until the end before you know exactly what you want to do, but some things might include:
Create a custom slideshow around a specific event or childhood highlights.
Print a photobook highlighting special childhood stories and photos.
Write the stories in a journal and have a book produced that can be given to family members.
If you used video, edit the video so that you can hear her telling the stories and show pictures of the events at the same time.
Scan. Save. Print.
Why not consider helping mom or grandma get their photos organized?
Restore any favorite old photos that are cracked, faded or wearing down.
Scan and save the photos so that they can be preserved and passed along to others in the family.
Print copies of photos. Display the favorites and put the rest in a fire proof safe or possibly a safety deposit box.
Photos courtesy of The Studio 56.