As a child, all you know is that your grandmother is kind, or quirky, or makes good cookies (or weird mac'n'cheese, as the case may be). As an adult, I would have known what questions to ask, and I would have cared about the answers.
It made me sad.
It also inspired me to give one of the most presumptuous gifts of my life.
I bought a simple composition book, decorated it with some scrap paper, filled it with questions, and gave it to Jarrod's grandmother for Christmas.
On the inside, I included these simple instructions and then a question on each page.
When she opened the gift on Christmas, she smiled and thanked me and that was that.
Time went on, and I sort of forgot about the notebook, although when I did think of it I was a little embarrassed because I worried she might have thought it was silly. There were an awful lot of questions in that book.
Years passed, and I definitely thought the idea had bombed.
Then yesterday I received a treasure in the mail.
My little time capsule was back, and it was filled with riches.
She hand-wrote pages and pages of family history: stories about her childhood, her parents, growing up in the depression, stories about Jarrod's father... even stories about my husband from his childhood.
I sat down and read every word and was just thunderstruck at how much it meant to me that she took the time to answer every question I asked.
Creative Memories (the company that originally sucked me into scrapping) has a motto that is a bit cliche, but really sums up what scrapbooking has always been about for me:
Experiencing the past, enriching the present, and inspiring hope for the future.
This notebook accomplished all three in one shot, and I'm excited to send several more out to my mother, my aunts, other grandparents etc.
If you feel inspired to do something similar, here is a list of the questions I included in the notebook:
- When and where were you born?
- Who were your parents and what were they like?
- How was your relationship with your parents?
- How would you describe yourself as a child?
- Did you ever get in trouble as a child? What was the worst thing you ever did?
- What is your best memory from childhood? What is your worst childhood memory?
- Did you have a nickname, and if so how did you get it?
- Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?
- What is your ethnic background?
- Who were your favorite relatives?
- Do you remember any stories your relatives used to tell you?
- Did you enjoy school? What kind of student were you?
- How did you meet your spouse?
- How did he propose?
- Do you have any favorite stories from your marriage or about your spouse?
- What jobs have you had in your life?
- Which job was your favorite, and which was the worst?
- If you could have had any job, which would it be and why?
- When did you first find out you'd be a parent and how did you feel?
- Do you have any favorite stories about your kids?
- Do you have any favorite stories about your grandkids?
- Have you experienced any miracles?
- What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?
- What is your earliest memory?
- What are you most proud of in your life?
- Who was the most important person in your life?
- What are your favorite hobbies?
- What is your favorite food?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
- What is the best vacation you've taken?
- What traditions have been passed down in your family?
- If you were to give advice to our family, and future generations, what would it be?
- Is there anything you would like to share with us that hasn't been covered?
See, tons of questions, which I think I originally found somewhere online.
I couldn't believe she answered every single one with such candor and sincerity, and it just reminded me again that if we never ask the questions, if we never listen to the answers, then the wisdom of previous generations leaves with them.
I'm so glad I asked, because this is one gift that I accidentally gave to myself.