Ever wonder what life was like for ancestors living fifty, a hundred or even 200 years ago? How would you like to read a journal of some great, great, great-aunt forced to raise a family alone after her soldier husband had been killed in the Civil War? Like to see your great-grandfather dressed in Irish kilts speaking to you from the old country, or view a relative wearing a straw hat toasting you from America’s Roaring 20s?
Well, I’d like to tell my offspring what life was really like at the end of the 20th Century and this new millennium as we kick off the Year 2012. We have the technology to share our thoughts and our knowledge if we simply take advantage of it.
But, what should we say? What message would you want to leave them? You should be honest about difficulties you faced and how you learned to overcome them. Talk about the failures for them to truly appreciate the successes. Pull no punches, but don’t scare the hell out of their need toward risk-taking.
What I’m suggesting is journal writing with a twist. Why not tell your story in a webcast? Write about a subject you feel strongly about and video tape it (“webcam” it!) Turn on the camera, look into its lens, and announce your intent to shake hands across time. Tell them what angers you about the world today, with the focus on making a buck at any cost. Give them an earful of how the religions we grew up with failed us until finding spirituality inside and not in someone else’s building. Speak of how you still get a chill when hearing the national anthem played on baseball’s opening day.
Laugh! Cry! And smile as you discuss your first job, say, at age 15 working as a messenger boy traveling from one downtown business to another, walking instead of riding the bus to save a 20-cent token. Tell how you couldn’t cut it as a door-to-door sales rep of some product or other when discharged from the military and willing to work at anything to help pay your way through community college.
Talk about war, but not too much. Admit mistakes you made that lead to a divorce. Mention, but do not dwell on, financial deals that went bust or the causes you fought for despite them actually being lost from the start.
It’s all of whom we really are and they can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Webcast yourself! Sit in front of a fire-place or a row of books and practice your presentation before making it. Entice a family member to ask your questions to get you started, but START IT!
Now all I have to do is comb my hair, get comfortable, and find the confidence to practice what I preach. If I do, I’ll see you on U-tube or some other place in the not-too-distant future.
Messaging yourself to another generation
I would do this if I had ever had children. Many, many years ago (like maybe 25), I asked my Grandmother to make a cassette tape for me. I asked her to tell me anything that came to mind and that I would love to hear about her parents and grandparents. The tape is priceless. Seeing how delighted I was to have the tape, my Dad encouraged her to make another one while he was visiting her. Dad asked questions and prompted her memory in other matters. When Gram died, I reproduced those tapes for my sisters and several cousins and each one of them was happy to have them. I hope you do this for your family. Though you may think it might make them too sad to see after you are gone, I can tell you that they will be happy you did it. In fact…I hope you do many videos for your family. I didn’t have a video camera until after the deaths of all grandparents and both parents. I wish I did have videos of them. All I have are 2 cassette tapes of Gram, 1 tape of Mom and I recorded all of Dad’s phone messages just to have his voice when I needed him. I wish I had more….