Aug 042015
 
Anticipation marked on a calender

Anticipation of the big event can make a great story.

In the aftermath of major events, anticipation is often overlooked. If we get around to preserving the story, we capture the event itself. Seldom do we go into the preparation, the excitement, and the looking forward to—or dreading—of the event.

Anticipation is part of the story too

Because anticipation–or dread–affects our memories, it’s often a part of the story—a part that will help readers understand us better (or the family member or ancestor we write about).

For instance, Gretchen Rubin points out in Psychology Today that anticipation is a major component of the happiness generated by an event. We anticipate, savor, express our gratitude, and look back and reflect. Likewise, in an aptly titled article, Anticipation Plays A Powerful Role In Human Memory, Brain Study Finds, Science Daily reports, “the simple act of anticipation may play a surprisingly important role in how fresh the memory of a tough experience remains.”

I’ve seen both sides of anticipation this summer. On the happy side, anticipation of meeting my son in Europe has carried me through the 90 days of missing him (not that I’m counting). Because his internship in the Netherlands is unpaid, he’ll need a loan to get him through his senior year of college. A condition—well the only condition we’ve actually discussed—of that loan is that he’ll travel with his mommy for two weeks at the end of his internship.

It’s probably not the most fiscally sound decision I’ve ever made, but as the flight day approaches, I’m giddy with excitement. I’ve obsessively planned our itinerary, taking over 700 ancestral events (births, baptisms, residence, deaths, and burials) into account in deciding what to see. I’ve booked cozy-looking affordable B&Bs, and calculated travel distances. I corresponded with friends I haven’t seen in 20 years and planned visits. I’m so excited that sometimes my feet don’t actually touch the ground.

Some anticipation is dread.

Stories of dread can matter as well.

As I helped my dear friend set up our church’s fellowship hall for her mother’s funeral reception, I saw that dread first-hand.

The event had, in one sense already transpired, but the final goodbyes were yet ahead. That dread expressed itself in the siblings’ painstaking efforts to make the goodbye meaningful. They bought orchids for each table and carefully re-potted each one. Mementos, collectibles, and photos were lovingly placed on the display table. Each item highlighted their mother’s personality and the importance of relationships and family to her.

Perhaps focusing on the smaller details gave them a respite from contemplating the big, heartbreakingly final, picture. But those of days drawing together, planning, and seeing to is a part of their family history. They matter because they illustrate the family dynamic.

Write about moments of anticipation.

These moments of anticipation are stories—stories often lost. They’re stories of how we cope and what makes our hearts sing. They’re stories of how our emotions are mixed, not just internally, but with family members.

Try writing about anticipation in your family’s life. These might include:

  • A child going away to college
  • A move
  • A trip
  • A wedding
  • A new baby on the way
  • Waiting for a diagnosis
  • Waiting for a doctor’s appointment after receiving lab results
  • Throwing a party
  • Waiting for a visitor to come
  • Frantically cleaning and cooking for family coming to visit

Your Turn

When has anticipation colored days, weeks, or months of your life?

Jul 292015
 
Selective reading of history -- words crossed out

Is there a selective reading of history in your family? How do you deal with it?

As southerners have debated whether the Confederate flag represents hate or heritage, several articles have addressed the idea of a “selective reading of history.” Which is, when you think about it, something families are really good at doing.

A selective reading of history isn’t quite a revision of what happened. It’s an intentional focus on some facts and a brushing-under-the-rug of other events. As storytellers, we play a role in selecting what’s told and what’s kept mum. Admittedly, sometimes the selective reading of history is appropriate. There’s a “truth” of the story that needs to come through loud and clear, unobscured by complicating details and the noise of side stories

However, other times, those of us recounting the family’s history slowly become aware of the crumbs lurking under the carpet. We feel uncomfortable as we sense them crunching under the family footfalls. Continue reading »

Jul 022015
 
Hometown context - a graphic of houses along a river

Adding hometown context can help your stories come to life

Your hometown comes to represent much more than the place you grew up. It’s your version of your state and country.

When we write about family members, ancestors, or ourselves, it’s important to give readers a glimpse of that hometown context. It helps explain worldview, values, and traditions. It helps them understand the personalities involved in our stories.

For instance, my hometown still colors my perception and understanding of events, even though I’ve now lived away from South Carolina as long as I lived there. It’s part of me. Though I’ve lived in the mid-west for over twenty years, I still consider myself a southerner. Continue reading »

Jun 182015
 
crest share surname history

A crest isn’t the only way to share surname history. Share stories too!

Aside from the “cock” part and the inherent playground emotional trauma that comes with bearing it, the Hedgecock name has a lot to be proud of.

Since I only adopted that name after my marriage, I confess to letting a giggle of two escape at some of the Hedgecock name jokes. “Bush-chicken,” for instance. My husband and sons fail to see the humor. Continue reading »

May 252015
 
Memorializing veterans

What’s Memorial Day? A day for memorializing a veteran–or veteran’s story

Are you missing the point on Memorial Day? If you’re a memoirist, or memory collector, you might be.

We treat Memorial Day as a remembering day, not a memorializing day. And what better day could there be for memorializing?

Celebrating and remembering is great. So is hanging out your flag. But, if we want folks to remember the sacrifices that were made decades from now, we need to make sure stories of our veterans aren’t lost. And what better day to do that than Memorial Day? Continue reading »

May 192015
 
Laugh at yourself

Whether or not everyone else is laughing at you, “Laugh at yourself” makes for great writing.

That misquote from B.J. Neblett didn’t go over so well with my mom when my Dad said it to her in the mid-sixties. Mom had a great sense of humor, but she didn’t like being teased. I often wonder if it’s because my uncle Joe teased her so much when they were young. Or was it her reaction to teasing that made it so much fun for my uncle to tease her? I digress.

This not-so-gentle nudge to laugh at yourself is good life advice. But, it’s more than that. In my opinion, it borders on a memory writer’s and family historian’s imperative.

The story in question when my dad encouraged my mom to “lighten up” was about the only time (to my knowledge) that Mom received a “ticket,” or traffic citation. Continue reading »

May 012015
 
Facing ancestors' past

How do we face our ancestors’ past and how does that effect our family tree.

We all saw Ben Afflecks’s embarrassment over his ancestor’s slave ownership splash across headlines. To me, the surprise wasn’t that he wanted Finding Your Roots to edit out that information. What surprised me was that the issue hasn’t come up sooner.

Ben Affleck isn’t the first one to look through his roots hoping to find royalty or framers of the constitution who found the reality distasteful. Many of us have had the urge to turn away rather than facing ancestors’ past.

Researching my own ancestors in Virginia, I breathe a sigh of relief when I see that they didn’t own slaves. Continue reading »

Apr 162015
 
Author Judith Fein emotional genealogy

Author Judith Fein writes about emotional genealogy

Today, I’m particularly pleased to present a guest post by Judith Fein and her concept of emotional genealogy.

When I gave my first talk about the power of Emotional Genealogy, I wondered if anyone would be able to connect to what I was speaking about. To my surprise, audience members asked questions for over an hour, and then they continued with personal questions for another half an hour.

You may be wondering what Emotional Genealogy is. Briefly, it involves examining how the behaviors of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents influenced who we are and how we are in the world. And it doesn’t matter if we knew them or not. Continue reading »

Apr 102015
 
Write about average and it comes alive

When you write about average, others look at the details and see something a lot more compelling than simply “average”.

Average gets a bad rap. Well, not so much a bad rap as not enough rap. We seldom hear about him or her.

For instance, you never see Average’s mom post about his achievements on Facebook. “Congratulations to my son Average who achieved something that most kids achieve.” Instead, we see the parents of Average’s friends posting about their kids achieving all the things Average tried to achieve, but fell just a tad short. “Congratulations to my child Superior who achieved something momentous. My kid is wonderful beyond belief and worked so hard. #mykidisintheroomwithme #Imjustanattentionwhore.”

Okay, the hashtags are imagined, put in my head by a hilarious teenager. (I’m withholding her name to protect the snarky.) But the post isn’t imagined. Its equivalent passes through our news feeds on a regular basis. Continue reading »

Mar 312015
 
Going back in a Holodeck

Going back via a mental Holodeck

We all know that going back home isn’t an option. But a girl can dream.

Last week, as the plane approached Greenville-Spartanburg (South Carolina) International Airport, the sight of red clay gave me a twinge. Home beckoned like a taunt. “Come back… Oh yeah. I forgot… You can’t.”

In my defense, I’m not trying to go back. I’m here to live in the present. To spend time with the people I love now. But, however much my intellect knows that going back isn’t possible, it can’t control my heart. The past, unbidden, beckons in my psyche. Continue reading »