Tag Archives: stories

Skills to “Actively Listen” and Record Family Stories during the Holidays?

5 Dec

I am currently reading and enjoying “Skills for Personal Historians 102 Savvy Ideas to Boost Your Expertise” by my all-time favorite, though now retired blogger Dan Curtis.

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Full disclosure, part of the reason I bought the book was to see how he referenced my story about “Joe and Helen“, page 186. I emailed this story to Dan in response to one of his blogs.

I have been browsing through the book, and yes there are “102 Savvy Ideas”. I recently re-read Dan’s first chapter on “Interviewing Basics”. Well, I am a pretty good interviewer.  I have been recording family stories, life stories, human interest, news stories, good practices and even lessons learned stories for over 30 years. But, Dan Curtis had a lot to share. Some of his savvy ideas I already knew.  Others, especially mistakes we learn along the way, brought out an inward smile… yep, been there, done that. Hopefully I have learned from these.  But, there were also some great new ideas that he had codified through experience and extensive study of his craft – both from interviewing and what I would term as “active listening”. These great new ideas, provoked reflection. In my mind’s eye, I kept visualizing on how I could better hone my craft.

The following are a few of Dan’s ideas from his book. These are followed by my reflections. For Dan’s specific content you should buy the book.

  1. The Secret to a Successful Life Story Interview
  2. Good Reasons to Ditch the Laptop and Handwritten Notes
  3. Are you Creating a Supportive Milieu for your Personal History Interviews?
  4. Action Steps to a Good Life Story Interview
  5. Have You Ever Found Yourself in This Embarrassing Situation?
  6. How to Get the Stories in a Life Story Interview
  7. Secrets to a Great Interview
  8. How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills
  9. What I’ve Learned about Getting “Truthful” Interviews
  10. Do You Make these Interviewing Mistakes?

This chapter has a ton of great content for those of us who serve as Professional Personal Historians. I think it also has great value for friends and family members who hopefully will make and a resolution to actively listen and record loved one’s stories during the holidays.

A few thoughts…

  1. Find where the voice recording app is on your Smart Phone, remember that you usually have this in your pocket when you see a friend, or loved one.  Schedule an hour to – actively listen, to this friend or loved one. Think about 2 or 3 key questions or stories you always wanted to ask, or a great story you have heard but no-one has recorded it. If practical, you may want to invest in a digital voice recorder that you can carry in your pocket or your pocket-book.  Test the voice recorder or the voice recording app ahead of time so you know how it starts, pauses, stops, save, etc. Find a quiet, comfortable place, sit down, start chatting, and then gradually shift to some of the questions you really want to ask and turn on the recorder.

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2. The nicest thing about a voice recorder or app is that you can put all your focus on actively listening to the story, making eye contact, nodding quietly, and smiling.  My eyebrows go up and my eyes smile when I am hearing a personal story.  By actively listening, smiling, and nodding I get to hear fascinating stories from my clients, friend and family members. You can do this too.

3. I love Dan’s word – Milieu. Make your narrator comfortable, put them at ease. I often interview my parents after breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I bring some treat from the Swiss Bakery to others.  A personal historian colleague told me the story of how she unplugs the noisy refrigerator or freezer and then puts her car keys in the freezer before the interview. Ok, I bit, why? So that she will always remember to turn the fridge back on before she leaves.  She turned it off so it wouldn’t rattle or gurgle during the interview.  It is harder to drive away, and leave the fridge turned off, if your car keys are still in the freezer. The down side is your keys are really cold when you get ready to leave.

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4. Prepare ahead of time, perhaps chat about potential questions for mom, with dad or Uncle Julio ahead of time. Text your daughter or your siblings to ask them what stories they really want to have recorded. Send an email to Great Aunt Sue to gather a bit of insider research before your interview. I usually write out a few outline notes ahead of time. I take a quick glance at these before I go out the door.  I think about the stories, or the chapter that we will work on today as I drive over the river and through the woods to my mom’s house, to Joe’s condo. and especially during that long drive early in the morning out to that remote county where my client lives.

5. It is a good idea also to have a checklist of what equipment needs to be charged ahead of time and what you need to carry with you in the car. Yes, I have left the house without my voice recorder and once found that my voice recorder was full when I was ready to start recording.

6. This is a great section in Dan’s narrative… “Is the story intriguing? Am I drawn in? Am I delighted…? If the answer is no, then gently redirect the interview”. Everybody has stories to share, actively listening, with periodic nods and an occasional redirection can make it an even better story.

10470171_790404754323810_1159196822803293323_o Jane Summers talks about her grandmother Lizzie, she made quilts for all nine grandchildren

7. Two lessons I have learned. If you are interviewing a couple, then chat with them for a while to determine whether you should interview them together or whether you should first interview them separately.  With my parents, it depends on the topic. Sometimes one will listen and nod while the other is talking, and then sometimes they can’t help themselves they have to jump in. This interrupts the flow of the story. I often find it helpful to interview one by themselves and then the other. However, if it is the right topic… “did he really propose?” Then it is  fascinating to hear and record each side of the story together.  I have also learned through doing family “Show and Tell” sessions that you can coordinate a great series of recorded interviews by designating one family member at a time to show a treasured object or photo while sharing their story with the group. These group sharing experiences can be powerful.

8. I love Dan’s examples here about staying on topic and not dwelling on trivial details. Encourage your narrator to build upon the flow of the story.  Sometimes surprisingly rich details will just flow out.  Also, you build up trust the more times you have interviewed someone.  You understand more of the context of the stories.  The narrator know you are eager to listen and to understand and out will come the story of an incident that they have not thought of for 70 years.

20141003_153503 - Tom Summers with three other Lieutenants in Korea about 1952

9. Their story is their story. I have been pleasantly surprised when a fact I thought I knew to be true about one family member, actually belonged to a different family member’s story.  I remembered clearly that my grandmother told me about the lights dimming in the gym when she was playing basketball. This meant they were electrocuting a prisoner on death row at Sing Sing Prison.  My mom corrected me, no… no, that was me when I was in college near Sing Sing. Another time, my client was sure that it was Susie… who got last at the World’s Fair, but a group of three over her children shared, oh, no… it was…!

10. Have I made the interview mistakes that Dan references… yes, these really caused me to reflect.  At one time or another I have made each of these mistakes.  The good news is that we learn from these. The other good news is that we get better and better at interviewing over time.  We learn when to let the interview flow, how to use nonverbal queues to encourage the narrator to continue, and how to actively listen so the story-teller can see we are engaged. They can see that we really want to hear the whole story.  We learn how and when to gently nudge or steer the conversation into a slightly different direction.  They see we are fighting not to laugh out loud, and sometime we just have to laugh with them. Sometimes I just have to saw Wow!

So wish me luck as I prepare to actively listen through the holiday season. I hope each of you will take time to share and record stories with family and friends during the holidays and during many other days throughout the year.

I wish each of you very Happy holidays filled with fun, fellowship and lots of good stories.

—————————–

Bruce Summers is a  Personal Historian with Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com. He also serves as a Board Member and as Director – Chapters and Regions for the Association of Personal Historians

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How many reasons do you need – to write your life story?

1 May

I have been enjoying the Association of Personal Historians blog series 20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History: Association of Personal Historians Experts Weigh In.  Below are nine great reasons with more to come as we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Association of Personal Historians.

For each individual though the reasons will vary.  One of my clients had aging parents – he was 102 and she was 94 when I interviewed them.  Clearly it was time to capture their life stories and personal histories. For him – what was it like growing up on a frontier farm at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century? For her – what happened to your family when the Japanese captured Singapore during World War II?

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Many clients have great stories but they have never written any of them down. What was it like on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War?

20141003_153503 - Tom Summers with three other Lieutenants in Korea about 1952

Sometimes you need to clarify the story. Your mother was playing basketball when the lights dimmed? “That was not my mother. That was me. Whenever the lights at our college dimmed, we were pretty sure it meant a prisoner had been electrocuted at the nearby prison.”

Many friends share, I wish I had recorded… my mother’s, my father’s, my grandmother’s, my aunt’s, my brother’s stories. To these I often remark, today is a good day to start recording your own memories or stories.  I take a digital voice recorder or use a voice recording app on my phone every time I visit with my parents.  We always have something to talk about. I am continually amazing how many stories my brothers and I have never heard. My best advice Ask the questions now, if you need help ask a professional personal historian to help.

Part of our value add is that we are skilled listeners.  We want to hear the story from the beginning. People often tell a more complete story to a fresh audience.  We know how to put stories in historical context and how to frame follow-up questions.

Most of us are also skilled writers and editors so we can help to enhance and weave together the stories, caption that box of photos, tie in those old letters and bits of written materials.  For one client I found in his file drawer, of bits and pieces of family history, his high school journal.  It was fascinating to weave this content into his personal history. It included entries about the weather (during the winter in Minnesota in the 1920’s), choring (what you do on a farm every day before and after school and on the weekends), school activities (finalized the essay on…), family activities (our family harvested all of the potatoes ourselves) and extracurricular interests (between studying, walking through blizzards, choring, school…).

20150501_142724 box of old photos

I focus on helping my clients record their stories first.  Sometimes they just want the audio files or the transcripts. The voice recordings can be later used to create books or videos. They can also be added to online family story archives that other family members can view or interact with.

It is crucial though to record the stories now since we never know when someone will have a life event that will prevent a friend or loved one from sharing their stories.  I have had several family members and friends who have struggled with loss of short-term or even long-term memory making it harder to remember or share key details of their stories.

How many reasons do you need – to write or record your family history?  Below are great blogs from amazing Personal Historian colleagues. We are ready to help.

#1. You’ll feel wiser (by Susan T. Hessel)

#2. First person narratives and family histories are important historical documents (by Joan Tornow)

#3. You are an important person. You have things to pass on, to your children, to your local history society, to unknown future generations (by Jill Sarkozi)

#4. You and your family are important to somebody, probably many somebodies (by Jane Shafron)

#5. Family trees are abstract. Stories add depth (by D. Fran Morley)

#6. Memories over time become fragmented and distorted. People may not remember the things you told them but did not write down (by Deborah Perham) Bonus post! (by Rhonda Kalkwarf)

#7. Writing your family history gives you the chance to depict your ancestors how you see fit (by Susan Terrill-Flint)

#8. There is a need for diverse family histories about those who have not been represented well in history texts (by Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner)

#9. There is a need for more family histories documenting female lines (by Shannon Stallone)

This WordPress Blog is by Bruce Summers, Personal Historian Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com. Bruce is a board member and Regions/Chapters Director of the Association of Personal Historians

Thanksgiving – Show and Tell

17 Nov

By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian – SummooseTales

Thanksgiving is getting closer day by day. Trader Joes already has turkeys — sell by December 5. Last week I bought the requisite bag of cranberries remembering back to when they used to sell out before Thanksgiving perhaps 20 years ago. I picked up an orange and a red pepper yesterday, these are the additional ingredients for cranberry salsa. I also picked up a quart of low-sodium chicken stock, just in case we needed it for the stuffing recipe.

 20141117_135036 Cranberries

We are hosting the Thanksgiving meal this year, so we also worked this weekend getting the house ready. I moved the Personal History client files, archives, and albums from my dining room office, where I can spread them out, review, edit or scan, back to the guest bedroom office.

This all started me to think about starting a new tradition, trying a Thanksgiving – Show and Tell. Building on my successful experience with Show and Tell for a recent Family Reunion, I reflected that the primary element needed for a successful Show and Tell are Family and Friends who share stories which are recorded.

So this is my Thanksgiving – Show and Tell checklist:
• Equipment – have a digital voice recorder, charged and ready. Many smart phones also have a voice recording app if the digital recorder is not available.
• For some of my Association of Personal Historian colleagues – video recording is also a good option.
• My children will be back from college for Thanksgiving so they can share their unique stories about recent or past adventures.
• Family and Friends have also been invited to join us for the Thanksgiving meal.
• Similar to Show and Tell for Family Reunions I will need to cordially invite everyone to bring an object, a photo, or and album and especially one or more stories that they will talk about for 5 or so minutes.
• An object or photos are not required but they give us an opportunity to share a bit of family history and a story or two or three. Example: What’s the story behind the display case of N-Gauge trains?

20141117_113430 Train Display

• The Thanksgiving Table may display a unique table-cloth or dishes and serving bowls. Does anyone know the story behind the salt and pepper shaker, the HOC glasses, and what about the table itself? What are the stories and what are the origins of these items?

20141117_113908 Salt and Pepper - Dutch20141117_113742 HOC Glass

• Then there are the unique foods and side dishes. Why do we have sauerkraut, and why does the pot need to stay in the kitchen and not on the table?
• Is there a tradition of sharing what we are thankful for? How did this start?
• My favorite questions for my mom or my dad or my in-laws – what was Thanksgiving like for your family when you were growing up? Where did you celebrate? Who participated? What foods do you remember? Example: my mom was a finicky eater. So as a youth she always got one of the wings from the turkey with lots of skin.
• Were there any special traditions for Thanksgiving Day? Examples: When did the turkey go in the oven? Did you watch the Macy’s Day Parade? In my family growing up, there was the tradition of the annual Thanksgiving project. Since I was one of four boys, perhaps this was a way my dad could keep us busy and out of the house while mom was busy getting things ready – the food, the table, straightening up the house so at least temporarily it did not look like four rambunctious boys lived there with gym bags, books, papers, and toys spread around.
• Remember the time we helped tear down the old barn on the back farm? Was that really a Thanksgiving Project?
• Sometimes it is good to ask about smells and tastes? For me there was the smell of the turkey roasting. I wanted to watch my mom baste the turkey, but really I just wanted to take in that heavenly smell. With my own family, for some strange reason I look forward to the smell of lemon pledge, endust or other anti-dust spray. I like to walk around dusting, mind you this is only once or twice a year, all the wood surfaces, the chairs, furniture, cabinets, and tables on Thanksgiving Day. Well maybe I will share this joy with one of my children this year, or maybe not.

20141117_134936 End Dust

• Show and Tell works best if you block or designate a specific time for formal sharing. Perhaps during that hour gap between finishing the main meal and serving desserts. On the other hand you may also need to schedule a bit of an interlude for clearing the table, putting the food away, and washing up. In our family we may also need to shoehorn it in between the annual Scrabble game and watching a movie together, sometime these go on concurrently.
• If possible gather in one room, have people bring out their objects or photos. Note some people will keep these secret until the designated time to share.
• Designate ahead of time someone to take pictures during the Show and Tell.
• The role of the Personal Historian or facilitator is to start and stop the digital recorder to capture each unique story. Make sure people say their name, make good eye contact, and nod encouragingly. Be a good listener and ask follow-up questions, if needed.
• Be prepared to kick things off by showing an object or a photo and telling your own short story.

IMG_4015 Superfine Limagrands

• Be prepared for surprises, that others may want to embellish the story or provide context, also that spontaneous stories will pop up that are not connected to a picture or an object. Perhaps a story about little Ralph and the missing silver spoon.
• At the end thank everyone, and think about how you will share the recordings and pictures with everyone, and how you and other family members can combine these stories into your family history.
• Bonus: You may find a quiet time during Thanksgiving or the Thanksgiving weekend to…
o Do a one on one interview with your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or family friend. You might find out about why your mom was afraid of mice.
o Surreptitiously wonder down to check out what’s in the basement or the attic.
o Walk around the house and take a few pictures of unique family objects that may have additional stories.

I hope everyone has a story filled Thanksgiving. Please consider trying Show and Tell.

What’s in your basement? Personal Historians want to know, but you might also be curious…

29 Dec

Bruce Summers, SummooseTales, Inc. is a member of the Association of Personal Historians

The Holidays and the start of the new year are a great time to do some exploring or cleaning out… a few recent basement finds – I took a quick look through my parent’s basement during December and the holidays, I found…

  • An old piano (out of tune) that we bought for something like $5 from the old New Freedom Elementary School (we had to take the frame off the door and the lid and wheels off the piano, then used the muscle of 5 strong teenage boys and my dad to muscle this piano down the steep outside cellar steps into the basement – it may never come out)

IMG_4018 New Freedom Elementary Piano

  • My grandmother’s sewing kit, a floor mat from my parents for boat – Summers’ Dream, a wicker basket that held toys for children and grandchildren

 IMG_4035 Grandma's sewing box, Summers Dream, Toy Wicker basket

  • A mystery box with correspondence from the 1880s from my great-grandfather (will need to explore that one in more depth)

IMG_4031 B 1880's Dwight Stone's correspondence in box

  • My father’s slides from his time as a second Lt. on Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War… (I did a voice recording of his narration as we looked through the first three trays of these slides)

IMG_4016 Korea Slides

  • A Superfine picture of a can of Limagrands (my family was in the vegetable canning business for 118 years) – See Summers 100 Years

IMG_4015 Superfine Limagrands

  • The wooden wine glass holder that I made for my dad 40 years ago to attach under the basement steps (hmmm… I might need to borrow that for my own home). My dad is still using the same electric belt-sander that I used to make the wine glass holder. It is sitting in the same spot in the basement since we moved in – in 1966 (I remember using this on dozens of school project and to make my own Cricket Bat when I came back from the Peace Corps in 1984).

IMG_4024 Belt Sander - Grinder and fire truck

  • Not in the attic but in my dad’s filing cabinet was the original pencil drawn diagram of the Prisoner of War Camp used to house German Prisoners in Stewartstown, PA during World War II… but that’s another story.

I encourage you to checkout what’s in your basement or your parents’ or grandparents’ basement or attic or that bottom desk drawer, then ask them about and record the stories connected to these items and related memories, you’ll be glad you did. (Hmmm… I guess I should call my dad and ask him why he keeps a toy fire engine by the belt grinder)?

This is a second in a series of blogs about basement finds, earlier I wrote… There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart…

  • I recently recorded a few updates to this mouse story.  My mom shared… An exterminator or similar service provider was checking our basement, this was perhaps around  1960 or 61 and said… “Did you know you had a rat in your basement?” Well this was enough for her to promote my older brother to head of the Summers Laundry as a 5 or 6-year-old since the washer and dryer were in basement. I also received a promotion to head of canned vegetable procurement as my mom now trusted me as a 4 or 5-year-old to go down to the basement to bring up canned vegetables for dinner.  This was in our home on Singer Road. Note: I recently rediscovered one of the old wooden bar stools from one of my parent’s former houses, I can just about picture my Mom perched high on top of this stool waiting for my Dad to come home to address a mouse or rat issue.

IMG_4023 B Bar stool from Singer Road

  • A bit of back story…  My mom explained that our first home on Third Street in New Freedom, PA also had a significant mouse problem… though possibly no rats. My dad’s first cousin had a large black walnut tree and of course black walnuts benefit greatly from being given a few months to dry out before opening.  My dad, having been married just a few years, thought that the attic would be a perfect place to dry black walnuts. Well, evidently the field mice, or perhaps they were regular house mice or more specialized walnut mice fairly quickly decided that my father was not really keeping up with his chores, since he was busy with the peak season for vegetable canning at the Summers Canning Factory, so they volunteered to turn the walnuts over each night, while my parents were trying to sleep.  My mom was less than pleased to hear the walnuts rolling around in the attic.  I was an infant and my older brother was just 2 or 3 at the time, we were not really bothered, I heard on the radio today that “white noise” such as this might even be calming, perhaps I found it soothing as I was taking my many naps during the day and sleeping through the night, though I admit I have no memory of the rolling walnuts.  My mother was even less pleased that the mice sometimes got lost on their way to and from the attic and found their way into the interior of the house, this prompting a call to my father.  He on the other hand is very proud of the fact that he trapped a record 23 mice in that house in one year. Long story short – my mom perhaps earned her phobia of mice honestly during her first 5 or 6 years of marriage.

Thanksgiving checklist: cranberry salsa, bread, and the Voice Recorder App.

27 Nov

Tomorrow on Thanksgiving morning my family and I will drive to my hometown in New Freedom, PA. My son arrives there this afternoon, his grandparents are picking him up from the Greyhound bus station on his way back from college for a brief respite before he returns to prepare for final exams.

My brother and his wife will host 16 of us for Thanksgiving. We will bring our renowned cranberry salsa, fresh-baked bread from the Swiss Bakery, and of course my digital voice recorder and my smart phone with the Voice Recorder App.

I know, I know, it can be a bit noisy and raucous around the table with 16 people engaged in eight or more conversations, not the best situation for individual voice recording, but sometimes it is just good to capture the moment, the spontaneous story threads shared, the collective voices of an extended multi-generational family Thanksgiving meal.

I also know that there will be many quieter moments for sharing family lore, sharing family stories, advice and wisdom. (Time to switch on the voice recorder)

As a Personal Historian, I always have my digital voice recorder or my smart phone, with its voice recorder, its camera, and its video recording apps, with me when I know I will see my parents. I know that each visit is a unique opportunity to ask questions and record their stories. Two weeks ago it was 20 minutes on my Mom’s favorite recipes, then 2 1/2 hours from my dad on the Charles G. Summers vegetable canning business that lasted for 119 years. On my Personal History “Bucket List”: well I would love to get him to narrate his “Korean War” slides. A few months ago I heard a new story about his walking down the farm lane to help a farm family with getting in the Hay and other seasonal chores. It brought back memories of my two days helping the canning factory farm crew bale hay as a teenager.

Past Thanksgiving projects…
Each year for Thanksgiving, while my Mom was busy getting the turkey in the oven and various food items prepared, my dad would organize a Thanksgiving “Project” for me and my three brothers. These projects were usually 4 to 6 hours, usually involving physical labor such as cutting firewood, but my favorite was the Thanksgiving we took down the old barn on the back farm. (I am not sure we got the whole thing down on Thanksgiving but it was all down by the time Thanksgiving weekend was over. We salvaged much of the barn siding, cut off the rotted sections and repurposed it to serve as paneling to “finish” my parents’ basement.

This year’s Thanksgiving projects:

  • Record – Five or      more new family stories
  • Explore – What’s in the basement?
  • Enjoy – Time      with family.

I wish each of you a great Thanksgiving. I hope each of you enjoys quality time with your family.

Recommended Thanksgiving Checklist:

  • Check your Smart      phone for the Voice Recorder APP.
  • Take an hour to      record a few family stories.

It is never too soon to start recording original family stories with loved ones. If you wait too long to get around to it… well then it might be a bit too late. Let me know if took on this Thanksgiving Project?

 

There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart…

21 Nov

What’s in the basement? Inquiring Personal Historians want to know. Please share your best discovery, thanks.
See Association of Personal Historians Discussion

There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart… more on this later.

At the recent Association of Personal Historians (APH) Conference – Steve Roberts described asking his mother… do you have any else for me? Her response… (Something like) yes I do son, and then produced a box with hundreds of letters between her future husband and herself. This was great original source material for a personal/family history book.

Two other Personal Historians described finding a 1,000 letters mixed in with a few boxes of family photos. These have or will be converted into personal histories.

My best experience thus far was discovering my client had a file drawer with various “family materials” in the basement during my “pre-interview” first visit.

Good news: after we finishing talking I went down to look and discovered it was a treasure trove of background material for the next interview, included family genealogy, etc.

Bad news: my client who was then 102 and banned from ever walking down the basement steps again, followed me down the stairs as I was looking in the file. But maybe that’s why he lived to 104, hmmm…

Good news: I later discovered his high school journal, a family history project he did in college with first person descriptions of characteristics of his ancestors in great detail going back to the early 1800s, what they died of, how long they lived, a pedigree chart and so much more.

Sometimes though personal historians are surprised at what they find in their own extended family basements… (or attics…)

  • A colleague recently described discovering that not only had her mother kept a diary for many years, but also her grandmother had kept a diary, independently the colleague had started her own diary a few years ago so now she had three generations, a 100 years of diaries and diarists to write about in her own family.
  • So back to my story… There were two mice, different generations, two different houses, three hundred yards apart… (Did you guess this was about my Mom? You may not want to share this with her, thanks).

About 1959 my Mom and Dad were expecting their third child and moved into a newer (well at least it was newer to them) house on a hill in the geographic center of our town. My grandmother owned the farm that bordered the house on two sides. The third side bordered the stone house and in front our house was a paved road, though there was another farm field just on the other side.

Well, perhaps during the first, second, or third week after moving in, my Mom went down into the basement to do the laundry. It was exciting to have a newer home with a washing machine; I am not sure whether she had a clothes dryer. I know there was the requisite clothes line out back.
Anyway, my Mom soon discovered there was a mouse in the basement.

  • The good news is it gave her four sons something to talk about for well over fifty years since then.
  • The bad news is she was deathly afraid of mice.
  • The good news was that her oldest son was three years old – a big, strong husky boy who thought it was great fun helping Mom with the laundry. I was only one at the time, but I was also recruited at an early age to take on errands in the basement, “could you go down in the basement and bring up some cans of vegetables for dinner?”
  • More good news, she had a third and then a fourth son to share “could you go down in the basement” chores.
    That basement was a great place to play hide and seek, it had an exterior door to get to our backyard, and we had lots of toys and games, our friends and cousins enjoyed coming over and spending time in the basement. Not surprisingly, my Mom never felt she needed to supervise our play when we were in the basement.

So we learned how to be useful, doing chores for Mom. We learned how to be independent and self-entertaining and we (mostly) learned how to keep the family secret – Mom’s afraid of mice. Despite this small handicap, she was a pretty great Mom.

Now about the second mouse… that’s another story. Until then – What’s in (your) basement? Please collect and share your family stories.

Thanksgiving is a great time to explore and record family history, or to a bit of exploring in the basement, you never know…?

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Bruce Summers – SummooseTales

Member: Association of Personal Historians

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