Many of you may be wondering what The History Project is all about. Wondering if it’s the right project for you. I thought that today we could go through a little exercise with a sampling of the style of the class.
It goes beyond just the ordinary Where did you work? and What schools did you attend? kinds of questions. The questions asked are designed to get you thinking beyond a typical answer. Beyond the simple answer. So that your readers will know more about who you really are.
Let’s use this photo as a starting point to remembering snippets of life.
I do not remember this moment. But does that matter? The question I would pose to myself is, what else do I remember about that time or about that kind of scene? Or maybe even the clothes I was wearing. Was it a favorite outfit? What were other favorite outfits? You don’t have to remember ‘the moment’, but rather, use it as a springboard to help you remember other parts of your life.
I remember going on walks in the desserts near St. George and into Arizona, with my grandpa, who worked for the U.S. Forest Service and BLM. He also discovered a brand new plant and it was named after him.
I remember him telling me the names of all the plants that we’d see, and searching for some endangered species as well. I miss that terribly about my grandpa…and his quiet little laugh.
I remember visiting my grandparents when they lived in apartments across from the St. George Temple when Dan and I were first married. She made a browned roast and gravy in her old square electric skillet. She made the best roast+gravy!
I remember going to St. George with my mother and maybe Jon and/or David because she needed to get away from the winter weather. Listening to John Denver on cassette tape. This was a time when my grandparents weren’t there during the winter. We didn’t have much money, so we’d sleep in the car. She’d park by the St. George Temple and move it intermittently around during the night. We’d then go hike around the red rocks of Snow Canyon. A family favorite as children and something I still do with my children today.
I remember having Christmas down there at my grandparent’s house they were renting one year (maybe I was 9 or 10?) when I got my first Kodak Instamatic camera, with flash bulbs and everything.
I could probably go on and on. When I start recalling one memory, it makes me think of another. And before you know it, you have this long list of memories…stories…about your life. I could go back and embellish those stories even more with more ‘sensory’ details (we cover creative writing in class), but this is just more of an example.
The beauty of journaling like this is that you don’t have to remember stories and place them in chronological order. I don’t remember how old I was on some of those moments and that’s okay. When you remove that restriction of remembering year by year, your mind is much more free to let those memories flow. Our brain isn’t wired to remember chronologically, right? One thought spurs another. Go with that flow! Of course, if you’re typing it up before making a final copy, then you could always make it a little more chronological by moving stories.
But that one photo stirred up so many random memories!
Whether or not it’s a part of that particular moment, remember to include additional facts to not only help your reader understand more about the moment, but also to sneak in other facts that might not otherwise be shared. For example, I shared that my grandpa worked for the Forest Service and BLM, which wasn’t necessarily a part of the moment, but will be interesting to know for those who are reading it.
Also, if there is a connection between then and now, include that too!
I know I’m pretty much a broken record on this, but sharing your stories is so important. I can never express enough how important this is. I will never have those stories from my mother. And you never realize just how much you want to hear the stories until they are gone.
I will never know them. That makes me incredibly sad.
I did not want that for my children. They will know who I am and what childhood was for me. My childhood was very unique in that my parents divorced when I was nine. A single mother with five children in the 70s was not an easy task. I lived not only with my mother, but would also live with various aunts+uncles during the school year to ease her burden and the challenges she faced. (I was the easiest-going child. ;) ) I lived in many places, but by doing that it helped me remember better because I associated places with my age and things that I did or received. My youth provided a great perspective and memory for me to help you now to recall your memories. (There’s a reason for everything.)
Do I regret the childhood I had? No. It’s made me who I am and I like who I am. I had so many wonderful opportunities that I might not otherwise have had. That being said, I love that my children have grown up in the same home with life-long friends. That was important to me. Additionally, living in many different places, combined with my mother’s spontaneous road-tripping, created an enormous wanderlust spirit in me and has now transferred to my children. We were just talking about how we travel more than a lot of people. Seeing ‘the world’ and experiencing all that it has to offer and appreciating it has always been a part of who I am and how I grew up. And you don’t have to go far or spend a lot of money for that either. You can find it in your backyard, up the canyon, to the beach, a three-hour drive…it can be anywhere.
So hopefully this exercise has given you a little glimpse into The History Project. Take a few minutes now and look at a photo or maybe an item from your childhood or even just that thought that entered your head right now and write about it.
Let the thoughts flow and see what stories appear!
You will be surprised!