Between the Lines

Thanksgiving is an emotional time. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they see only once a year.

And then discover once a year is way too often.

— Johnny Carson

Seriously, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to find out more about your family and their lives, especially parents and/or grandparents who hold a gold mine of stories and remember details of other decades. These are treasures worth seeking. Besides, topics about your family are more fun (and safer) to discuss than politics. In April I gave writing prompts to help you write your own journey. Now, use the same process to write about others in your family. You will end up with a treasured keepsake, and might discover some surprising stories and insight into your loved ones. Ask, listen (and let people talk — you will be richly rewarded when someone delves into a memory), record and then write.

Where did you grow up? What sort of neighborhood did you live in? What was the city/town/community like? What did you like about it? Where did you play? What was your best time there? Did anything scare you?

Where did you live? What sort of house or apartment did your family have? What did you see when you looked out the window? Did you have your own bedroom? What was your favorite room? What is the best memory you have of your home? What is the worst?

Tell me about your family. What about your parents? Were they strict or easy-going? What did you love about them? Did they ever drive you crazy? What about siblings? Any disagreements you remember? What did your family do together? Did you all have dinner together? What was that like? What did you talk about? Were there rules? What about aunts, uncles, grandparents? Did anyone live with you? Close to you? How often did you see them? Who did you love? Why? Who did you go to when you were in trouble? Did you dislike anyone in your family? Why?

Tell me about your neighbors. Who were they and what were they like? Was anyone from another place? Where? Did you have any close friends in your neighborhood?

Tell me about school. Did you walk there? Did you ride a bus? Do you have any stories that happened on the way to school? What was the classroom like? Who were your teachers? Did you like school? Why? Did you hate it? Why? What were your favorite subjects? Why? Did you dislike any subjects? What did you do well in? What about your friends? Who were they? Who was your best friend? What about bullies? Did you have a rival? Why were you at odds? Were there any confrontations between you?

What about holidays? How did you celebrate? Did your family get together? Who came? Who did you love to see? Was there anyone you avoided? Why? What was your favorite holiday? What did you love about it? What did you dread?