Tag Archives: The Family Stories that Bind Us

Monday Musings: And then there was the time….

8 Apr
Many of our stories are told at family gatherings.

Many of our stories are told at family gatherings, a chance for several generations to be together, a chance for memories to be shared and created.

“Tell me a story!”

“Remember the time….”

“What about that day when….”

My kids have always loved hearing stories from when we were kids, stories from when our parents or their parents were kids, even stories about themselves when they were babies. They laugh at the funny ones and they’re mesmerized by the stories about people they never met or of days before their time.

They liked these stories so much that at one point many years ago, I’d typed up all the ones we could think of, and I put them into a word document that I called, “And Then There Was the Time….”

My goal was to add to them as I remembered more or heard more, or as things happened that we wanted to remember in the future. At one point though, I had a computer crash and that’s when we found out that Carbonite, the system we were using for backup “on the cloud,” had lost everything too. So that document, along with so much else, is gone.

But, the stories remain, nonetheless. They are in our memories and in our hearts and the girls still ask for them and laugh about them and they know some of them so well themselves that they can retell them now.

We’ve always placed an emphasis on the sacredness of dinnertime in our house, and so many times our dinner conversation turns into us telling them a story from the past. Larger family gatherings are perfect for telling stories. I grew up hearing the stories about my dad’s dog, Trixie and all the crazy things she did when he was a kid, a teen and even when he was  dating my mom.

In fact, I recently read a quote from chef Charlie Palmer, owner of restaurants in Manhattan, Las Vegas and San Fransisco. When asked by Family Circle magazine whether despite his busy travel schedule his family (four boys ranging from 14 to 18) still has big family dinners, his answer was this:

“Absolutely. In fact, my wife Lisa and I go out of our way to make sure of it…..The conversations that go on would never happen if we weren’t all around the table.”

I have to agree with Charlie.

Recently a friend posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times article, “The Stories That Bind Us” that told of the importance of knowing one’s family stories, and the importance of telling family stories–the good and the bad. You can read the article yourself, but in a nutshell, it speaks to the importance of developing a family narrative. The article cites several studies, which all point to the same thing:  “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

The article goes into the fact that families who have a strong foundation, a strong knowledge of their family history were better able to get through tough crises.  It even recommends developing a family mission statement of sorts, in other words, letting everyone in your family unit know what your core values are, what your family stands for. And I think we’ve done that over the years.

No matter what your take-away from this article is, mine is simple, and I have had a sign over my door for years which states it: Home is where your story begins. As my family leaves each morning, that sign reminds them that it all starts here. The strength they have with them each day is formed here and whatever they do when they leave this house, they carry with them the core values we’ve instilled in them here. Of all the framed sentiments I could have chosen for the wall, I chose that one because I truly believed it and I live by it still.

The article sums up these important points:  “The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

And so, keeping that in mind, we’ll continue to spend time together as a close family unit, telling and retelling our stories. We’ll continue to ask those in other generations to tell their stories, so that they are in our hearts, minds and memories.

And hopefully, it’ll continue to be a strength that bonds our family together, because we know that no matter what:

Home is where your story begins