Writing Triggers for Family Memories
Write Your Childhood Memories Down for Future Generations to Enjoy
Your memories of childhood may have receded, but with a little prompting they come to the surface again. Writing these down creates a wonderful legacy to leave your children and grandchildren.
For the past two years, I've belonged to a writing group that meets weekly. Each week we write about a different topic relating to our childhood. Having a memory trigger gets us started. Hearing the stories that each group member writes brings back even more recollections of our own. I highly recommend it. Take a trip down memory lane.
I'll provide a fresh prompt or writing trigger each week here. Use it to prod your memory, then write down what you discover. Your recollection may be just a paragraph or it could be five or six pages. As you find the nostalgic thoughts flowing again, take advantage and get it into written form. I try to provide enough prompts within each topic so that something will get you started writing. You don't have to record every aspect suggested. Chose a part that interests or inspires you and start writing the reminiscences from your childhood.
These writing prompts about your lifetime memories also make great topics for a page on Hubpages or a blog posting. Discuss the topics with your siblings, parents and friends to see what memories they share with you.
Spring Topics to Write about Your Childhood
- Chose a photo from your childhood. Start with the basics of who is in the picture and how they are related and interacting. What happened right before or right after the photo was taken? Look closely at the photo. Describe the setting, the furnishings. Make the scene come alive for someone who can't see the picture.
- Write down the family stories about your birth. If you don't know what happened the day you were born, ask family members. Was it a difficult birth? How did the family react to your arrival?
How about your siblings? Do you know the stories that go with their arrival in the family?
Winter Writing Prompts
- What was winter like when you were a child? Do you remember epic snowstorms? Search your memory for how cold it was and how you felt about it. Describe the feel of the snow and sensory details like sound, taste, etc.
- As a child, did you do something impulsively that you regretted? Write about something stupid that you did. Tell about the aftermath and who was affected by this and how you felt. Did you have to apologize to anyone?
- Did you have a crush on another child while in grade school? Tell how that turned out. Did you give them a valentine or other token of your esteem?
- Did you ever get lost, maybe in a store or at a crowded event? Write about how that felt and try to include all the five senses in your description. Were you scared, how long were you lost, where were you?
Remembering Playing in the Snow - Memory prompts to start you writing about your childhood
Write about the activities of a winter day from your childhood. Describe the games you played in the snow and what you wore. Did you have boots, a snow suit, a hat with a tassel? Think back to snowball fights, snow forts, fox-and-geese, snowmen, etc.
Did you have ice skates and where did you skate? Did you have a sled? Describe it and where you went sledding. Do you remember making snow ice cream or sucking on an icicle?
Remembering a Pet
Write about a childhood pet
The topic for this week's memory trigger is pets or animals. Think about some animal that played a role in your life. Maybe you don't have a Lassie moment where the faithful dog saved you from almost drowning in the pond, but there's much you can write about an animal. (the photo show my cat, Gypsy)
How did the pet come into your life (shelter, abandoned, gift)? What appealed to you about it? Describe its appearance. Tell about endearing qualities of the animal. Did it also aggravate you? Was it closest to you or did it favor another family member? Were there any major incidents (illness, lost, conflicts)? How long did it live and how did you lose it?
If you didn't have a pet, did you wish for one? What kept you from having a pet? Is there a certain animal, domestic or wild, that especially appeals to you? Tell about encounters with animals at the zoo or a neighbor's vicious dog. Are you a bird watcher? What childhood experience shaped this interest?
Describe Your Favorite Superhero - From Childhood Days
Think back to someone you admired greatly when you were a kid. Maybe it was a cartoon character, a movie star or a real person. Tell what attracted you to them. What abilities did you like and want to acquire for yourself? Tell how they impacted your life or behavior.
Remember Being Punished as a Child
Write about that
Perhaps you were spanked or had to sit in the corner. Maybe you had your mouth washed out with soap. Think back to your childhood and getting in trouble. How were you punished? What was your infraction? Did this happen often or was it a rare event? Tell about how it made you feel and how you behaved afterwards.
Belonging to Clubs
4-H, Scouting or Informal Clubs
Did you belong to an organization like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or 4-H? Perhaps you started your own neighborhood club and built a backyard clubhouse to meet in. Tell about your memories of belonging to a club or not being in a club (did you feel left out). Write about what you learned from your membership and the good parts and hard parts.
What Did You Want To Be When You Grew Up? - A Teacher, a Fireman, or Other Professions...
Think back to your dreams of childhood. Perhaps you imagined yourself as a clown in the circus or as president of the United States.
Write about that dream and what made you want to be that. Note if you actually followed that dream or ended up as something else.
(photo of my brother from our family album)
Memory Triggers about Camping
Perhaps your family went camping with tents or a camping trailer. Write about where you camped and what you did and how you felt about those excursions. If you didn't camp with your family, write about camping with the scouts or camping in your backyard.
Try to remember the sights, sounds and smells of those outings. Did you have a campfire, tell stories, take hikes? Record your memories before they get away.
Make a Personal Timeline - to give structure to your childhood memories
I'd like to create a timeline of my childhood. Here are links that give ideas on how to do this. This week between Christmas and New Year is a good time to start working on this. I hope you'll give it a try. Put on it the major events of your childhood, like family moves or deaths or other events.
- How to Create a Personal Timeline | eHow.com
Each one of us has a personal timeline that began the moment we were born. This timeline consists of highs and lows represented by the positive and negative experiences we have had. Putting this timeline on paper is an excellent way to record your li
- How to Create Free Timelines | eHow.com
Timelines can be fun and simple ways to display a set of information in chronological order. A handful of websites can provide you with a basic timeline generator at no cost. All you need to do is input the information you would like on your timeline
- Timeline of Abraham Bates Tower's Life - Civil War Veteran
Here's an example of a timeline I made for my genealogy research.
from your childhood
Think back to babysitters you had as a child. Was it a teenager, a family member or a grown up? Write about fun times with the babysitter or ones that you dreaded. Tell about the occasions when you had a babysitter (while parents worked or took a trip or had an evening out). Were you well-behaved for the sitter or hard-to-handle.
Write about your experiences babysitting as a teen or being left in charge of your siblings while mom went out shopping.
Write about Your Cousins - and Your Relationship with Them
Were your cousins close in age to you and did you spend a lot of time with them in your childhood? Perhaps you've drifted apart or remained close over the years. Think back to the interactions, shared memories, family reunions and describe your cousins.
What Were You the Expert on?
Write about Childhood Abilities
I bet there was something you excelled at either at home or at school. Did you master tying your shoes and then teach your siblings? Were you the one that knew all the facts about dinosaurs? Maybe you were a whiz at memorizing Bible verses for Sunday School. Did you win all the marbles from your school buddies?
Think back over the years and write about your special talents, knowledge or interests. How did you get to be expert at whatever it was?
Memories of Childhood Hospitalization
Write about it
Were you ever hospitalized as a child? Tell about your operation, illness or accident. How serious was it and how did you feel during your hospital stay? Describe the sounds, the smells, the people around you. Write about your recovery or residual problems. Did you ever go to the emergency room or ride in an ambulance?
If you didn't have any illnesses, then write about a sibling or a friend who did.
Send a Warning Back in Time
Remembering a Hard Time from Childhood
If you could send a warning back in time to your childhood, what would you warn yourself about? Think of decisions you made, mistakes or something bad that happened unexpectedly. Possibly your life would be different if you knew it was coming and could change it. You can write it in the form of a letter to your younger self.
How Did You Wear Your Hair as a Child?
Write about your hair
Maybe you liked the way your hair looked or hated it. Was it short or long? Did your mom/dad cut it or did you go to a barber or hair salon? What color was your hair?
Did you ever cut it yourself and what was the result? How did you wear it on special occasions? Describe a bad hair day from your childhood. Take a look at your childhood photos to refresh your memory.
Were You the Oldest, Youngest or Middle Child in Your Family? - This week's memory prompt
Write about your place among your siblings. Did you get special privileges or responsibilities as the youngest or oldest? How do you think your birth order affected your thinking and behavior? Did you admire or resent your older or younger siblings?
If you were an only child, did you wish for a brother or sister? Write about what you feel you missed out on and what was special about being an only child.
Encourage Your Child to Write
I thnk it is important to encourage writing by your child as well as reading. Once they acquire a liking for these two activities, you'll have a lifelong learner and the skills will come in handy throughout their life.
What do you need? A place to write helps, plus some encouraging activities. Check out the book shown here. Possibly your public library has it or similar titles for borrowing or you can order them from Amazon. They should be just what you need to turn your child into a writer.
Were You Bullied?
Write about Childhood Memories of Bullying
This may be painful to write about, even after many years have passed. Think back to your school days. Was there a bully and did he/she pick on you or on another child? Write about your efforts to avoid the bully. What kind of encounters did you have? Did anyone help you or the other child? How did you feel and how did it affect your behavior?
Describe how the bully looked and acted. Think about why they acted the way they did. How does it make you feel after all these years?
Write about Elections and Politics from Your Early Years
Write about any experiences you had serving as an officer in a club or at school. How were the officers elected? Did you help a friend run for office?
Was there anyone in your family that served in an elected position from town mayor or any other office? When did you first become aware of national politics and presidential campaigns? Tell about the first time you went to vote.
Remember Shoes from Your Childhood
Write about your earliest memories of shoes. Describe what they looked like and if you liked them or not. Where did you go to get shoes? What kind of socks did you wear with them? Were you allowed to go barefoot in the summer time? Did you get shoes at special times of year for back-to-school or Easter? Were your baby shoes bronzed?
Write about Someone You Disliked
in your childhood
If there was someone in your childhood that you hated or strongly disliked, write about him or her. Tell what made you dislike them. Describe their personality and physical appearance. Were there some confrontations with this person or unpleasant events? Write about those. Try comparing them to an animal or using a color to sum up the way you felt about them.
Write about Toy Guns and Play - from your childhood
Did you have a toy gun to play cowboy and Indians? Perhaps you had a BB gun or a 22 rifle. Tell about your activities with these. Write about the pretend play with the toy gun and about what you shot at with the real guns. Did you go hunting with your father?
If you didn't have these, did you want one and what kept you from having one?
Every Picture Has a Story
Do You Know the Story of How Your Mom and Dad Met? - Write your parents' love story
Of course, you weren't there, but write down any family stories about their meeting, dating and wedding that you've heard. If they are still around, ask them or other family members. Do the same to record your grandparents' romance and also your own.
Here's my parents' story of their romance during World War II, Gail and Clyde Martin - Lasting Love.
Remembering Favorite TV Shows
Describe the television set from your childhood and how it is different from today's televisions. Did your family watch certain shows together? Remember TV trays and eating in the living room? Were there limits on what shows you could watch or time of day for watching? List as many shows as you can think of that you watched regularly as a child. Tell about your favorite show and the personalities on that show. What about that show appealed to you?
Make a Map of the Neighborhood Where You Grew Up
This will trigger childhood memories
Start with the location of your home, then fill in the houses on each side and put the names of all the people you can remember. Continue down the street. Try to remember what the houses and yards looked like and describe the people. Try to capture in words the feel of the neighborhood.
Was there someone in your family who was "special?" Maybe they were gifted or considered slow. Perhaps they had a handicap or a chronic illness. How did the family respond to their needs? Write about how it made you feel or how you coped with the situation.
Have You Used Any of My Writing Triggers?
Vote in the poll
Books to Help You Write Your Life Story
Although I've given you quite a few memory triggers here, perhaps you'd like some more. Check out these titles. Some are available for Kindle too.
- Remembering - Life Story Triggers and Memory Essays
- Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate, and Share Your Life Stories
- Memories, Our Family Journal (prompts on every page)
Playing Board Games
Fun memories to write about
Did you play board games with your siblings or parents or friends? Tell about the board games you played when you were a child. Describe the game board and pieces. Did you ever cheat? Were you a good loser?
Remembering Rainy Days
Yesterday it drizzled all day. My mind went back to childhood days and what we did when it was rainy. This is a good topic for my family memory writing group.
Write about your memories of rainy days in summer. Did you play inside? We made a tent with a sheet over some chairs. Must have driven our mother crazy. Did you read (what?) or play board games (which ones?) or watch television? Did you cook something or have a special rainy day meal?
Did you like rainy days or did it make you cranky so that you fought with your siblings? Did you go outside and play in puddles? What did you wear?
Links to Other Memory Prompts
- The Write Prompts | Writing Prompts
Creative writing prompts for journaling, fiction writing, poetry writing or blogging. You can subscribe to this and get it sent to your email.
- Online Community AARP - Friends & Family Online, Writing Memoirs
This has a monthly memory prompt. There are lively discussions in this group.
- Schoolchildren.com | Personal Narrative
Writing topics suitable for writing about childhood memories.
Write about Getting to School
Remembering school days
Tell about how you got to school each day. Did you walk or ride a bus or did someone drop you off at school? Think back to the details of this. If you walked, write about what you did along the way and what you saw. Who was with you? Tell about how you felt on snowy days or rainy days. If you rode the bus, record your memories of the sights, sounds, feelings of that.
Write about your family secret
Was there something you learned about your family that surprised or shocked you? How was the secret kept from you and why? Write about how you came to discover it. Tell how it made you feel. Are you now the keeper of the secret or does everyone know?
Dolls from Childhood - Photo Inspiration
Write about Your Doll from Childhood
Think back to your favorite doll and write about it. Describe the features, hair color, texture and capabilities of the doll. Tell about when you received it and how you named the doll. Did you make clothes for it? What eventually happened to the doll? Did you have many dolls or only the one doll?
Marbles or Jacks?
Write about memories of a childhood game
Let's focus on a competitive game like marbles or jacks that involved squatting down and playing on the pavement . Tell who you played with, what were the stakes, and your ability to play the game. Did you win or lose more often? Writing down the rules of the game and a description of where you played will help the memories come back.
Where Did You Grow Up?
A writing trigger about places
Tell how the state you grew up in influenced your childhood. What regional activities, accent, cooking, history and sights do you associate with that state and your childhood? Did you study the history of your state in school? If you moved around a lot, which state was your favorite to live in?
Write a Letter to a Childhood Friend
That you've lost touch with over the years
Even though you don't know where they are, write in letter form the memories that you shared with them. Try to remember the little incidents and activities you did together. How did you become friends and when were you separated or lost touch?
Writing Your Letter
Remembering Mother's Apron
Write about your childhood memories of aprons
Think back to the kind of apron your mother wore. Was it a bib apron, a half apron or a small fancy one for special occasions. Did you have an apron too and help in the kitchen? Write about shared activities with mom where she was wearing an apron.
It's the time of years when the waning days of summer and the back-to-school sales reminds us of childhood school days. Think about your family's preparation for school. Did you get new clothes and new shoes or just spiff up the existing ones or get hand-me-downs from siblings and cousins? Was there a new lunchbox with your favorite TV or movie star on it? Write about those memories and about the first day of school, meeting the teacher and facing new classmates. Did you change schools or always go to the same one? Tell about your feelings at the start of the school year. Did you regret the ending of summer freedoms or look forward to school? Describe one of your classrooms in detail.
Here's a great example of first-day-of-school memories written by an Australian. It's marvelous.
Time Travel Back to Childhood
Write about a particular year or re-write it
If you could go back in time to a particular year in your childhood, what age or year would you revisit and why? Perhaps you would want to experience again a particularly happy time. Alternately you might choose a difficult time with the idea of seeing it from a fresh perspective. If you could rewrite that problem year, how would you make it better?
Memories of Sibling Squabbles
Write about your childhood memories
Think back to spats with your brothers or sisters. What did you fight about and how did you resolve them? Write about how your parents reacted to the arguments and any punishments or threats that occurred. Did any of these behaviors carry over into adulthood with your siblings?
Describe Your Grandmother
Write about her for your blog or your memoir
Start writing about your grandmother by making a list of keywords that you associate with her. These can be characteristics like huggable, strict or physical descriptors like roly-poly, white-haired. Be sure to add in foods that remind you of her and activities she did. How did you feel when you were around your grandmother? What kind of visits did you have (whole family visits or long summers on your own with her)? Write about an incident that sticks in your mind. Describe the scene and what happened and what it meant to you.
Write about Music Lessons or Playing an Instrument
for your blog, your memoir or a Squidoo lens topic
Think back to taking piano lessons when you were a child and write about your teacher, favorite or hated song, skill or lack of it. Maybe it was another instrument that you learned to play, so apply the same questions to that. If you didn't learn to play music, did you want to and what circumstances kept you from it?
Playing on a Swing - Write Your Childhood Memories - for a memoir, for Hubpages or a blog, or just for yourself
Did you have a swing (wood or a tire) on a tree to play on? Think back to fun times in the yard. Was there a swing set or a jungle gym or a slide? Maybe you went to a park to play with these. Describe how it felt to swoop through the air. Were there any injuries from playground equipment or incidents with other children?
Out to the Ballgame - Write Your Childhood Memories
Did you or a sibling play baseball? Write about going to little league games, playing sandlot baseball or not playing. Did you get picked last when teams were chosen for neighborhood or recess games? Was there a coach and how did you get along with the coach? Were your parents encouraging and attend the games?
If you didn't play, write about an excursion to a ball game. Were your parents fans of a certain team?
I could use this page as a lesson plan for a memoir writing class that might last a full year.
Write about Your Mother
Are you alike or different?
When you look at yourself, what do you see that reminds you of your mother? This can be physical attributes or a way of thinking/speaking/coping. Do you sometimes see your mother or hear your mother when you act or talk a certain way? Write about how you feel about that and whether you would want to be more like her or less.
Did You Believe in Fairies? - A writing prompt for childhood memories
Think back to the fairy stories that were read to you in childhood. Remember where you were when you heard the stories, maybe it was a bedtime story or at a library storytime. Did the idea of fairies scare you or make you want to meet the fairies? Was there one story that stuck in your mind? Write about the tooth fairy if that custom was followed in your home. Did you have pretend games that included fairies? Describe what you thought a fairy looked like.
Remember Young Love?
Write about your first crush
Think back to your school days. At what age did you first notice the opposite sex? Was there someone who pestered you or had a crush on you? Who was your favorite and did you try to win his/her affection. Tell about your fledgling romance and what happened to it.
Me and My Little Red Wagon
Write about Playing with a Wagon
Save your childhood memories
A wagon to pull or ride in is a popular toy for children. Think back to childhood days. Did you have a wagon and what color was it? Describe the wagon and tell how you used it. Write about other children playing with you and the wagon. Were there any accidents with the wagon or arguments? Did you give your toys a ride in the wagon? Try to remember who gave you the wagon.
If you didn't have a wagon, was there another pull-toy that you enjoyed? Did you want a wagon and were disappointed? You can also write about your own children and their wagon.
Write about Snow Activities - that you remember from childhood
Did you enjoy snow when you were a kid? Write about going sledding or skating or skiing. Describe what you wore for playing in the snow and who played with you. Did you hope that school would be closed by a snow storm? If you lived in an area that didn't get snow, write about your feelings over not having snow.
Mom's Rules - Write about limits set by your mother
As children we sometimes tested our parents guidelines and rules, so write about the behavior rules set by your mother. How did she enforce them. Write about memories of time-out, spankings, grounding or other ways your parents tried to get you to follow their rules. Did your friends have more freedom or more restrictions than you did? How about older and younger siblings; did they get more privileges?
Did You Write as a Child? - Triggers for memories of writing stories and poems as a child
Graphic provided by Zazzle
Writing a Story by evelynsaenz
Think back and try to remember when you first learned to write. Did you have good handwriting or was penmanship a struggle for you? Tell about your writing efforts from thank you letters to grandparents or a letter to Santa. Were you encouraged to write poems or stories? Do you still have any of these early writing efforts? Tell about what topics you liked to write about and if you illustrated your work.
Check out This Great Site I Found
- Memoir Writing Blog - Women's Memoirs
This website has a monthly contest, so enter your memory essay in it. A blog about writing memoir, journaling, autobiography, family or personal history, life story, Women's Memoirs provides writing tips, author interviews, writing prompts, memoir w
Write about Your Sports Experiences from Childhood
Think back to any organized sports that you played like Pop Warner baseball or team sports in school. Did you play sandlot baseball in the summer or were you not athletic? Were you the first one chosen or the last one when sides were picked for a game? Tell about a sport that you excelled at or one that you were hopeless with. Think about what your dreams were for sports achievement. Tell about some memorable games or awards you or your team won or almost won. Did your parents attend your games or coach your team?
Memories of Carnivals
Your childhood experieces deserve to be recorded
Think back to your childhood for an outing to a theme park or a carnival. Remember the rides, the lights, the special foods...
Now focus in on how it felt and write about the sounds, smells, colors and the feel of that experience. Did you get sick on the roller coaster? Beg for cotton candy to eat? As you write down the details, the memories should come back.
Remembering Mom's Housekeeping
Think back about your mom and write down the memories
Was Mom a spotless housekeeper or was it hit-or-miss? Do you take after her or are just the opposite? Write about how you felt about your mother's housekeeping style. Did it inconvenience you, did you have to help with the house cleaning or did you just take it for granted? Compare the conveniences you have today to what tools she had.
1920s Baby Photo
Writing about Yourself as a Baby - A writing trigger for family memory essays, blogs or your memoir
Most families tell cute stories or sometimes humiliating stories about funny things you said as a baby or toddler or something you did. Try to remember these stories and write them down. Maybe it was your first word or first step or the time you fell down the stairs and scared your mother to death. Find your baby book if there is one and photos of you as a baby. Look at the details and try to work those into your memory piece. Since your children and grandchildren will read this later on, try to include the things that were different then from the way babies are raised today. Cloth diapers and bottles of milk heated in a pot of water on the stove; it wasn't easy taking care of a baby in the good old days.
Another way to apply this writing prompts is to write about your child's time as an infant.
Write about Your Early Memories of the Family Cars
Writing Trigger - Autos
Think back to your earliest memories of riding in the car. Try to think about where you sat, what you could see and other details of the experience. Describe the car's color and upholstery. Tell about the toy cars you had or wanted to have.
Were you ever carsick? Did you squabble with your siblings about who sat by the driver or by the window? Think about other cars from those early days, like what cars a friend's family had or your grandparents. Think of cars the family had over the years you were growing up. Write about learning to drive.
The photo below shows my mother and her friends.
Remember the Family Auto
Writing about Your Childhood Religious Experiences
Think back to religious activities you participated in as a child. Was the family church oriented? How did you feel about your family's beliefs or lack of religious beliefs? Did you join in attending Sunday School, vacation Bible school, or the church choir? Write about your childhood memories of being baptised or First Communion or going to confession. Can you remember reciting a bedtime prayer? Do you have a favorite hymn? Tell about the family Bible or receiving your first Bible. Did you go to church camp or to church picnics or a revival?
If your family wasn't particularly religious, then write about that and how you felt about it.
Did You Experience Loss of a Loved One as a Child?
Loss of a pet, a grandparent, a friend
Write about your first experience with death. If it was a pet, did you have a funeral for it and bury it in the backyard? Write about that or about the loss of a person. Did a grandparent or uncle die? Were you old enough to understand what was going on? Write about going to the funeral or not being allowed to go. Try to remember little details about the experience to make your memory piece more vivid.
Memories of Moving to a New Home - Write about It
Did your family move when you were a child or did you always live in the same place? Write about your feelings when the family moved. Did you like the new place better or the old one? How did it affect your friendships, school, and activities? Describe the two places.
If you didn't move during your childhood, write about moving out when you reached adulthood. What was that experience like?
Write about Changes That Have Happened in Your Lifetime
What has changed since you were a child? Write about what is different, what has been invented, and how lifestyles have changed since you were a child. Think about the daily activities of today's child and how they live. What is better and what is worse about the changes over the years? Were those the Good Old Days or not?
Remember Something Precious to You
Memory Prompt for Writing Childhood Memories
Think back to some object that was important or precious to you as a child. Describe it. Do you still have it or was it lost or broken or given away? Tell why you considered it special. Who gave it to you or how did you get it? Where did you keep it?
This could be something simple like a feather you found or something valuable like a ring given to you by your grandmother. Think back to something you treasured.
Write about Going to the Movies as a Child and Young Adult
Think back to your early years and what the movie-going experience was like. Did you go often? With friends or with family? Describe the theater and how you felt about going to the movies. Tell about movies that you loved, hated, or found scary. Did you go to a drive-in movie theater? You could write about going to the movies with a date.
Tell about the foods that you remember from going to the movies. Did you have ice cream after the movie? Did you have a crush on a particular movie star?
My Mother's Memories of the Princess Theater in the 1930s - An example of what you can write with this memory prompt
Her description of the Princess Theater in Eureka, Kansas, takes you back to the 1930s. This is a great example of what you can write from your memories of childhood. Note how she uses all the senses (sight, hearing, smelling, etc. ) to bring the memory alive. Just click on the link below to read the piece.
Saturday at the Movies by Gail Lee Martin. Location: Eureka, Kansas. Year: 1930.
Write about Names in Your Family
How did your parents chose your first name and middle name? Were you named after someone in the family or after a famous person? Tell what you know about other names in the family like your siblings names and your parents' names. Expand it further if you can to write about grandparents and their names. Now think about the family names on both your mother and your father's sides. Do you know what nationality the names come from or if the surname was changed at any time? Add in some details about nicknames that you and others in the family had. What was the source of those nicknames?
Early Reading Memories
Do you remember learning to read? Was it a struggle or were you a bookworm? Write about reading role models that you had (parents, older sibling, teacher) or what motivated you to read. Think of the books you had. What were your favorites? Were they gifts? Did you go to the library, to storytime or get read to at bedtime by mom or dad? Where was your favorite reading spot? What kinds of books did you like best? Did you win any reading awards?
Family Roles or Labels
Think of the ways your family described others in the extended family. Who was considered the most successful? Who was the black sheep of the family? Who was smartest, the best storyteller, the best dressed, the most eccentric, the best cook? Who was considered the most talented or gifted and in what way? Who was most likely-to-goof-up?
List 10 descriptive words your family applied to you.
Complete this sentence for your mom: "Don't be so ___________."
Tips for Writing Memoirs
Memories of your mother, grandmother and yourself
Did your mother have a job outside the home? How did you feel about it as a child? Did her role (homemaker/bread earner) affect your own choice to be a stay-at-home-mom or career girl? Write about what you wanted to be when you grew up. How did that turn out? What messages and values did your family promote that affected your choice. Make a list of jobs you've had over the years. Describe those and tell what you liked best and least.
Write an Unsent Letter
I read about writing a letter to someone who had died. This was a suggestion in the book, Families Writing by Peter Stillman. He presents quite a variety of ideas to get the whole family turned on to writing. The idea of the letter, in particular, caught my attention.
The letter can be to someone living, like to a friend about something you wish to tell them but for some reason can't. It could be to a grandchild that you don't yet have and express your hopes for their life or explain about your life in the letter. It could be to your great-great grandparent telling them how different your life is from their time and asking questions that you wish they were around to answer. It could be to an ex-spouse telling of your anger with the divorce and the circumstances around it. There are myriad possibilities with this concept.
Often when someone dies, part of the grief we feel centers on things we wish we'd expressed to that person. Writing a letter sounds like such a great way to release some of that pent-up feeling of regret. This is the writing prompt for the week.. It can be a private letter, not to be shared with a writing group if you aren't comfortable with that. That way you will feel free to really open up and commit feelings to ink on paper.
Give it a try.
Remembering Childhood Chores
Did you have regular chores as a child? Wash dishes, feed the dog, make your bed? How old were you when you learned to iron clothes or assume responsibility for a chore? Did the family work on some chores together like gardening or cleaning the house? What was the incentive or threat that motivated you to get your chores done? Did you get stars or an allowance? Write about your attitude towards doing the chores. Did you drag your feet or feud with your sibling about whose turn it was to do it? Did you vie to be the one to help mom or dad with some activity?
Start by making a list of chores you did, then expand on those while answering some of the questions above.
Remembering Childhood Illness
Write Your Memories of These
Think back to your childhood. Do you remember being sick? What remedies did your parents turn to? Was it a serious illness or the routine scrapes and tummy aches?
Write about your experience as the patient and also as the caregiver for someone who was ill. Was it your child, a parent, a spouse?
Do you remember the polio epidemics and getting the vaccine for it? Include descriptions of childhood friends being ill or family pets. Tell how the family coped with the disruption.
Did you ever pretend to be sick? Tell why you did that.
Childhood Memories - What Would You Wish to Change about Your Childhood?
Write about what you would change
Were you desperate for a pet or a baby brother that never materialized? Did you suffer a loss or setback that you would wish hadn't happened? Did you want to be Shirley Temple or an only child? Think about three things that you would change if you could. Write about what your life would have been like if your wish came true.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Virginia Allain