The great thing is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything complicated, expensive or time-consuming.
What it should be is memorable.
Whether the participants include your spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, or close friends, here are some easy ways to help everyone enjoy reminiscing about it for a long time.
1. Talk about your shared adventures
Everyone has a story they love to tell. Encourage each person to describe what they liked best about a specific happening. Use gatherings, such as family dinners or car trips, to reinforce memories of what you have done together. Children especially have rather short retention spans, so help them relive some of your favorite times.
My grandchildren are five and six years old and they live several states away. To maintain a closer relationship with them, we often use phone calls between visits to talk about what we have done together already or plan to do next time. One of our recurring favorite trips is to a commercial dairy farm in Indiana that has wonderful interactive exhibits for children, a birthing barn and the best ice cream ever. Each trip allows them to redo things they’ve done before and to discover new delights as they get older. Best of all, it has given us the shared adventures to relive later.
2. Use photos and mementos as keepsakes
After your experience, combine photos and mementos into a simple scrapbook or shoebox. If possible, have each person provide input and feedback about what they did. You may be surprised about a child’s perspective. For example, recently I spent the entire afternoon with the grandkids at a local children’s museum with an abundance of hands-on exhibits and things to do. Was their strongest impression about the castle with medieval costumes, the puppet show, or the jet airplane? No, it was the wooly caterpillar they found on the sidewalk when we were leaving. So we drew a picture of that little critter to include in our memory box.
Photos are great to use with all age groups, not just the very young. For more complicated experiences, you may want to expand the photos to include some journaling in your scrapbook. That process will help you retain the details of the trip and avoid disagreements about what you did and when. Many years ago, my then-future mother-in-law welcomed me into the family by showing me their family photo albums. It was a great way to learn about all the members of the clan. Many years later when she began to suffer from memory loss, we were able to use old photographs to reconnect, at least for a short while.
3. Write about your experiences
As a Personal Historian, I am passionate about getting people to save their family stories before they are lost. What a great way to preserve your memories so they can be savored for many years to come. People often ask how they can get started on their own stories. The easiest way is simple – just start with one story at a time. Before long, you’ll find that each story leads you to others. I like to think of that as a starburst effect, which is great to see.
Whether you are working with children or adults, consider starting a writing journal. In fact, you may want to start a separate spiral-bound notebook for each project. For example, you can have one journal for adventures with the kids or grandkids, another for longer trips in the summertime, and a third for pulling together your favorite family recipes and the stories that go with them. In fact, my first column for this blog was about saving family stories via favorite recipes: see Recipe for Family Stories for a reminder on those ideas.
4. Plan future adventures together
Another activity that helps build memories is to talk about what you plan to do together, with your spouse, your kids, your friends. The planning and dreaming together are a wonderful way to understand what you each want and how you can help each other achieve those goals. Ideally, as you lay out your future trip, you’ll be able to combine aspects from everyone’s list of things to do and places to see.
As an example, planning ahead allows my husband to enjoy visiting yet another strip mine (yes, apparently there is a difference between a copper strip mine and a coal strip mine), while arranging our route to include various quilt shops along the way. Hmmm, I wonder if he might think all quilt shops are alike? Now that’s something I never considered before, but I see something worth checking out.
5. Keep your sense of humor
Okay, now just in case all your adventures aren’t perfect, consider a little bit of advice. Look at the bright side when things don’t work out exactly as you planned. Be patient and roll with the punches. There’s not much you can do about misfortune, but you can control how you react to it. You may not be able to laugh about it for a while, but at least you can make sure it doesn’t ruin your trip. Besides, think about all the tall tales you’ll be able to tell when you get back home.
By the way, have you ever heard this riddle: How do you make God laugh? Just tell Him you have plans!
How do you keep your family memories alive?