28 January, 2007
Three years ago, I decided to create a family journal for my children. They were born in Germany and though they met their Canadian relatives regularly when they were young, the frequency of our visits diminished since my father’s death.
When I talked to my children a few years ago, they didn’t really “know” their aunts and uncle or cousins anymore. (Thankfully, this has been rectified with a visit last autumn.) And, even more sadly, the memories of my father had faded to vague shadows. So, I thought I would make up a family journal for them. The purpose was not to make them remember again. No, I just wanted to somehow freeze what I know now and keep it fresh for later; for a time in the future, when my children become adults and might ask questions about the family they come from and what once was.
The journal is something they can read in twenty-year’s time. Something that will show them what my family was like, what their childhood was like, but, most particularly, what family means on a larger scale.
Creating the journal was a labour of love. Initially, I asked all of my relatives to write something. I asked them if they would submit any story, portrait, recipe, longstanding family joke, anything. In the end, not all of my family sent in something, which saddened me somewhat for a while. But the resulting two journals, each over a hundred pages and more than a hundred photos, are precious beautiful works.
My uncle sent a magnificent document about my maternal grandmother and grandfather’s sides of the family. One sister sent photos of her beautiful embroidered tapestries. My other sister sent some stories of our shared childhood. I wrote a journal in three parts: stories from my childhood, memories of my children’s childhood to date, and reflections on what family means on a larger scale.
During the next week, I’ve decided to post each day one of the stories from my journal (without the photos). The reason behind doing this is, foremost, to share with you the notion that even the most insignificant episode from the past can breathe life back into time long gone. I have not created a chronological document of ancestry, but rather, I pieced together a hodgepodge collection of stories that I hope will be, in their cumulation, enjoyable to read.
If you have children or grandchildren or just someone special, consider writing a journal for them. The journal connects them to the past, as well as to you.