family stories only live so long as they are being told

– Lindsay, Sarah, Rebekah

 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:19
– author Derek Maul

Today’s post – January 4th – wraps up my New Year’s series from the brief trip Rebekah and I took down into North Florida.

I’m posting about our traditional family gift exchange. Whoever is hosting always directs some variation on the classic “draw numbers, then either unwrap a gift or steal one that has already been opened” format.

This year’s twist went like this: Everyone was asked to bring a wrapped gift that represented a family story/memory. When all the gifts had been opened, each person would try to guess the story; then the one who brought the gift would share the memory.

This is a great idea! It led, of course, to a long conversation where a lot of memories tumbled out, and then more stories emerged, along with laughter, and tears, and joy.

Some of the Memory gifts:

– Lindsay with the Boston Terrier

One hot item was this ceramic Boston Terrier mug (gifted by Rebekah). The story – essentially – goes like this: Jesse had a real Boston Terrier, “Bo”, when he was a teen. Years later Joe gave him a Boston Terrier planter that eventually broke. After it was glued together it went back and forth as a white elephant gift until mysteriously disappearing (rumor has it one of the spouses “accidentally” dropped it, swept it up, and deposited the remains in the trash).

Joe now has the new ceramic Bo. We all wonder how long before it suffers an untimely misfortune….

The gift I gave was a paper angel ornament (see picture gallery below), crafted by Rebekah’s mama Nell 50 years ago. We shared stories of angels we have known, and memories of Grandmama Nell (she died in 1999). Lindsay got to take home the treasure.

Jesse unwrapped a potato, evoking memories of Joe’s epic potato cannon. Seth gave fireworks and we laughed about the New Year’s and July 4th’s where Joe, Jesse, Tom, and the older cousins tried to blow everyone up!

There were craft projects (Grandmama Nell, Rebekah), bottles of Cheer Wine (Grand Myrt, Roy), and so much more.

– Heather opening the fireworks

You get the idea. The point here is that family stories only live so long as they are being told. It is great when someone takes the time to write them down, but they are only truly alive when they are shared, especially in family gatherings like the one Rebekah and I just attended.

Sadly, when people isolate themselves from family (for whatever reason…) they eventually tend to drop out of the stories; and – also – their contribution to the collective memory is lost too.

Family stories only live so long as they are being told… memories are only truly alive when they are shared…


When we talk together, and listen together in this way we get to the heart of the shared experience that is collective memory. Family stories are less about indisputable facts as they are about shared truth.

This is the richness and the depth of what it means to be family.

We don’t have to do something outrageous to be remembered; we simply need to listen graciously, to give of ourselves generously, to share openly, and to love unconditionally.


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