National Day of Listening

Wall of Framed SilhouttesLast year when I returned to Texas for Thanksgiving, my grandmother pulled two drawers of jewelry out of her closet and dumped them in the middle of the living room floor. As she picked up each piece, she put it on, modeled it in the mirror and passed it to me to do the same. While we played dress-up, she told me the stories and memories associated with each piece.

The necklace with the enigmatic Asian woman dancing across the silver was a gift from my grandfather when his company stopped in Shanghai. The delicate pearl bracelets were from the streets of Paris when she was a sixteen year-old new mom living on a base. I didn’t know she’d ever lived in Jamaica until she pulled out bright strings of beads and showed me, as local women had taught her, how to wear them as both necklaces and belts.

As Meme talked, I realized I’d never imagined her as Linda, a daring and adventurous young woman who traveled the world at a very young age and broke the mold for women of her generation. I’ve related to her differently over the past year because I have a deeper understanding of her very rich life experience – and of myself knowing I am so very much like her.

I also realized I might never have known these stories had she not offered them. I didn’t record our conversations last year but I plan to this year as part of StoryCorps National Day of Listening, the day after Thanksgiving. The entire point of the project is to preserve loved one’s stories for familial recollection and historical reference.

StoryCorps provides a free, downloadable Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide and question guides organized by topic and relationship to the interviewee. Some of them are so great I want to ask them of everyone in my life:

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did they teach you?

How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?

Have you experienced any miracles?

Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?

I’m not the technical type but Britt over at BlogHer has a fantastic post up about the National Day of Listening that conveniently lists all the ways one can do the actual recording part. Check it out and also take a look at the examples on the StoryCorps website to see how other people have done their recordings!

Post your recording in the comments of this post – we’d love to know the histories of our GLI family!

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