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Rose Osborne, 67, was a registered nurse for 45 years before retiring to become a personal historian, owner and creator of Write My Journey, a life story writing service that turns memories into a beautiful hardcover book.

Ever thought of inviting great-gran to dinner? She will come…

Inviting your ancestor to dinner might not be as dumb as it sounds. I hear your scream: “the kids aren’t interested” or “the olden days don’t matter to kids”.

That’s what they tell you but maybe not what they mean. People love rituals or traditions and while the younger generation may deny the ties, the evidence is there in the family roles, habits and cultures that are employed every day.

There is quite a lot of evidence that tells us that family stories build resilience, emotional stability, and self-esteem in our children. It is worthwhile to consider different ways of relating family stories as it may just make a difference to at least one member of the family now or in the future.

Try the family meal

Gathering for meals is so much more than preserving our nutrition and a ‘free meal’. A family meal is a ‘bedrock’ ritual that builds family strength and communication.

Mary, a client of mine, strongly felt the family needed to know their ancestors. One week she told them she was inviting her great-grandmother to dine at the regular weekly family dinner.

Mary set a place for the ancestor and put a photo of the lady in her spot. The jovial conversation flourished, and Mary allowed herself to tell one humorous story about her great-grandmother. Mary prepared a dish from her great-grandmother’s old recipe book that had been handed down through the generations as she thought it was about time the modern family had a taste. 

The family enjoyed it so much, they decided to repeat the celebration of ancestors as a regular ritual.

The secret is simple

I think the secret to Mary’s strategy was keeping it simple with only one story that the family could relate to, and turning it into fun. Young people love fun.

Mary could also use family treasures such as war medals, heirlooms, photos or anything that is available. She could dust off the old crockery, bowls or candelabra and integrate them into the tableware as stage setting. If she doesn’t own any of those items, the local charity shop is sure to have some. Similarly, borrowing a recipe from a recipe book of the times of the ancestor is a way of introducing old and trusted favourite foods.

Photos and trivia

A family discussion in my family became animated when it was noticed one of the family was the identical image of our great-great-grandmother.  ‘Who looks like who’ or ‘who has skills like who’ is another deal-breaker that will engage all gathered around the family table.

Another client with similarly determined views developed a family trivia quiz each Christmas as a fun activity but also as a means to develop knowledge of the family, both past and present members.

Including current family members and their partners and children placed the family scenario squarely within the groups midst and was quite a clever idea. The quiz was held after lunch was finished and all were relaxed and still sitting around the table. Of course, there was competition and a winner’s perpetual trophy, and the love of a repeated yearly tradition did the rest.

Families are complex and compelling

Families are a complex and compelling paradigm. At the end of the day, they are individual people that are connected by events past and present. Modern families aren’t necessarily bonded by blood but by relationships and stories.  People seem to be accepting this change in the family paradigm as everyone wants to fit within a family circle. It is important.  

The tragedy of the modern age

Family stories are heirlooms that are held in each and every heart and are a gift to each generation that passes them on. If no-one passes them on, then that would be the tragedy of the modern age.

Hopefully, someone remembers to flick the smartphone voice recorder on and the stories are recorded and then converted into a beautiful book for all to enjoy.

OFFER: If you would like Write My Journey to write your life story, contact us for a FREE 15-minute review on your life story. Rose Osborne also does guest speaking to small groups on Writing your Life. Contact Rose on 0407 487 495 or visit the website at www.writemyjourney.com.

Read Rose’s past columns on life writing herehere, here and here.

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