Friday, May 7, 2010

40 Minutes with Your Mother

I know there will tons of blog postings all over the place this week about moms and tributes to moms. But, when in Rome, right?

In my lifetime I've been blessed to know my mother, both of my grandmothers, and two of great-grandmothers. And while I've known all these women, I haven't always gotten right the history of lives that surrounded them. LK calls it "family history according to me" because I'm always having to come back and correct some thing that I once that was fact that only later do I discover isn't true at all. So when I heard about the StoryCorps project on the Cobert Report I found it very interesting.

StoryCorps is the most ambitious oral history project ever undertaken. Since 2003, this remarkable project has collected the life stories of more than fifty thousand Americans in all fifty states and preserved these interviews for future generations at the Library of Congress. Millions of radio listeners look forward to hearing these stories each Friday morning on NPR. In recording booths traveling across the country, StoryCorps is capturing for posterity the stories that define us and bind us together.

Basically how David Isay, StoryCorps founder, described it on the show is that you take a woman- in this case your mother, grandmother, someone who fills that rolls for you, into this room (the one he was talking about was set up in Grand Central Station but he said they have them all over now) and you have 40 minutes to ask her questions listen to her as she answers the questions and talks about her life. At the end of your time together they give you a CD of the conversation and then keep a copy of the CD in the Library of Congress (so it's probably not the time to take someone in the box and ask them the deep-dark-family-secret-kind-of-questions.)

So this has started me thinking, it's too late to think about questions to ask my great grandmothers, they are no longer with me (though I'm sure my Great Grannie would have had some amazing stories to tell her life as a single mom raising 4 children - or at least that's how I think the story goes). But for my mom and grandmothers- what questions about their lives would I ask if given 40 minutes in a room alone with them?

What about you, if you were given 40 minutes to ask your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, any question about their life and sit and listen to them as they answered- what questions would you ask?


Gena said...

I'm going to have to think on that one. Just wanted to tell you that I love your tribute. I hope you're feeling better! Good luck with the deli. :)

Beth said...

My great aunt wrote down her childhood experiences before she passed years ago. She was one of four sisters growing up in a small town in Slater, MO. Each of the sisters, including my grandmother, have a copy and I leafed through it the last time I was home. I am so grateful she took the time to do this, but she was the writer in the family, much like Jo in Little Women.

Storycorps is something I first heard about while a student with the School of Library and Info. Science at USC. It's a great resource along with the Veterans History Project. Both are maintained/archived by the LOC. I have one submission in the LOC for the Veterans History Project- Lyle Bouck. I am hoping to introduce these projects to my students so we can begin to record some history. Primary sources are so invaluable!

Life was so different just 3 generations past. I guess I would ask for stories about relationships (friends, family, etc.)as these seem to have taken on a new meaning in the age of our digital monopoly.

ptagoddess said...

Actually, your grandmother (Grannie) has written a short story about her growing up years. In fact, I found out things I never knew about my mom from it. I think the verbal aspect is good because once started, the stories just flow. When writing, unless the person is a gifted writer, you are tempted to decide something is not important, etc.

And yes, your great grandmother has several interesting stories but mostly about life before her kids.

Post a Comment