Capture the Memories

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By Mary Anne Benedetto

It seems as though we were just in the midst of the heat of summer with its tornado and hurricane warnings, floods, and humidity so thick it sometimes felt like you could chop it with a machete. Now here we are rapidly approaching the holiday season!

Whether you are celebrating by devouring luscious Thanksgiving turkey, accompanied by all of the requisite trimmings, or perhaps seated around a Christmas ham and trying to keep the little ones quiet long enough to say grace, this is a time of year when we hope to enjoy some quality family time with loved ones. From the presence of senior citizens to the smiles of sleeping newborns, memories are being made at these events. And stories are being told. The seniors sometimes like to reminisce about holiday events back when they were growing up, but do we really listen? And do we actually capture and preserve the stories they are telling?

Lauren and Clara Greene

Some grandparents and great-grandparents may sit back and remain fairly silent, shell-shocked by the chaotic activity surrounding them. Perhaps they need coaxing to join in and share some of their recollections. What we must remember is to take the time to make them feel special. Let them know that you value hearing what life was like for them when they were growing up. Some of them are under the distinct impression that no one is interested. Are they correct?

The sad truth is that once they are no longer here to sit at that holiday dining table, unless their stories have been preserved, they are forever lost.  During this holiday season, why not attempt to engage the elder family members in conversation about their lives? A few tips are:

  • Ask questions about the paths that brought them from there to here.
  • Have a small, inexpensive hand-held recorder handy to capture the priceless memories.
  • Recruit a family member or friend to transcribe the recordings, producing a document that can be shared with future generations.

When I was working with a senior group a few years ago, their limitations prohibited them from  producing full blown memoirs. I devised a form, which I call the Mini-Memoir. It is a fill-in-the-blank one pager that will generate discussion about favorite aspects of life and can be utilized by the older folks, as well as the younger generation. Make it a family holiday tradition! This form is a free download at my Web site Click on the page called “Write About Your Life,” scroll down and print a PDF copy of the Mini-Memoir. Print as many copies as you’d like because it is my gift to you to help preserve some of those family memories which may erupt.

Ask the kids to tuck away their iPods, iPads and cell phones for a little while and participate. Everyone has a story, and involving the children in listening to the tales told by the older folks equates to creating lasting memories. Encourage them to ask questions and engage in meaningful conversation with Grandma, Grandpa or Uncle Joe.

Enjoy your 2012 holiday season, and please honor those beloved senior citizen family members by capturing some of their stories. You’ll be glad that you took the time because we can’t rewind! We can’t go back once they are no longer with us. God bless you, your family and your dear friends as you celebrate His love and grace during the holidays and begin a new tradition that will benefit future generations!

Mary Anne Benedetto is a speaker, ghostwriter,  blogger, Certified Lifewriting Instructor and author of 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing: Build a Priceless Legacy One Story at a Time! and two novels.  Her passions include helping people preserve their life stories, creating Christian fiction, world travel and walking the spectacular South Carolina beaches.  Visit her at, and


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