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Preserving Your Family Stories

Updated on July 18, 2015
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Front Porch Sitting

I am old enough to remember sitting on Papa Tom’s front porch where family gathered on Sunday afternoons. The grownups drank Cocoa Colas and sat in the green wicker chairs and talked. We children were warned not to swing too high in the porch swing or we’d tip it over, and of course we did and it did - once. In fact sitting on the front porch after supper was a nightly ritual in the summertime. My family didn’t have a porch, but our landlady had a big screen-in porch and she often invited us over. But usually it was Papa Tom’s front porch where we gathered most often. He lived two doors down. That porch stretched across the entire width of the big house and had sofa-sized wicker swings at both ends. Those swings were the location of many relaxed hours of gentle swaying.

Chasing Lightning Bugs

Conversation on the front porches started out with the sharing of the week’s activities, how hot it was, how hard they’d worked. As the sun began to drop in the sky and the air was cooled by gentle breezes the talk turned to family matters and we children turned to playing in the yard, chasing lightning bugs and each other. We were called back to the porch as it grew darker and that is when the real story telling would start. I was fascinated by the telling of strange phenomenon such as ghostly lights and fire balls that rolled through houses during storms. Our elders relished in telling stories about their crazy or notorious relatives, true ghost stories and not so true tales of monsters and goblins. We children had our favorites and often made requests.

Story Telling a Lost Art?

I am afraid the art of story telling is becoming lost. Families gather around the TV or computer for a different sort of story telling now. Truth be told, gathering doesn’t happen all that often either, with a TV in every room and family members dividing to watch separate shows. Electronics have replaced the human bonding that used to take place on the front porch.

The loss of the stories is a loss of family history and culture that can never be regained once our grandparents and other elder family members pass on. I realized that loss after it was too late to ask questions and record some of their stories. I am happy to say my daughter, Dineane, and I did write down many of mama’s ghost stories, but many more yarns are lost forever or the details are so fuzzy they have lost their magic.

The older I get the more I regret the loss of those stories and the more I campaign for folks to preserve their family’s stories while they can. I am even doing workshops to help people do just that - save their family stories. Somehow we have this idea that our grandparents and parents will always be around to tell the stories and answer our questions. We know better, but we don’t think about it. So, now is the time to say to Grandmother, “Tell me the story about the time . . ..” and take notes as she tells it. Ask the questions your grandchildren might ask in fifty years. Do it while you can. Don’t worry if you are not a writer or not a good speller. Don’t worry about grammar. This is not school and in fifty or a hundred years the person reading the story will not care about the mechanics of the writing, only the story it tells.


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    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 4 years ago from Hollister, MO

      I love to read family stories. I love to share family stories, in both non-fictions and in fictional settings. Thanks for sharing. Following.

    • marieryan profile image

      Marie Ryan 4 years ago from Andalusia, Spain

      This is a lovely concept. I was the youngest of a family of four. By the time I was 16 I had lost my parents and the aunt and uncle who had brought me up. I now regret not knowing any family history and want to preserve the little I have for my own daughters. Thanks for making me take action now!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This is one topic that is very close to my heart and I perfectly agree with you that we need to save these family stories while our elders are with us. These memories will serve to entertain the generations to follow.

      voted up, beautiful and useful.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 6 years ago from Central United States of America

      "chasing those lightening bugs" ! And climbing some of those big old trees. No more...but your hub brought memories of some young beautiful times. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Helen Spencer 6 years ago

      .....and once more without the typo, sorry. Incase anyone is interested in browsing....

    • profile image

      Helen Spencer 6 years ago

      I could have written this myself (except we have no porch)! I founded a website for families to capture their stories to pass on to future generations, in chronological order on a timeline. I did this after the loss of my mother when I was pregnant, and the realisation that I knew so little about her life. I am determined that my own kids will know everything about their mother, and that the memories of their time growing up will be preserved safely in the order it happened for them to look back on when they're old enough and I'm gone. Come over and chat some time! Helen Spencer. You can find me on Facebook & Twitter as SaveEveryStep too.

    • krazikat profile image

      Ophelia Madden 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      I really like your hub. You tell a story with a moral...and as I sit typing this each member of my family is off doing their own thing...and the thought of a porch story sounds fantastic.

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 6 years ago from Michigan

      Story telling is fading away. I missed out on a lot of stories about my grandparents and even many about my parents. Hopefully, I am able to pass on stories to my grand children.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      I agree with you on that matter. When I was a child, I was also experiencing the storytelling of my grandparents. It was always a good stuff, family bonding on the porch especially on full moon nights. Thanks for sharing.

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      Fiddleman 6 years ago

      A wonderful hub and memories to be cherished