As generations pass on, they leave behind a legacy – achievements get recounted; values are cherished; physical assets are distributed and used. However, what often gets lost to future generations are the stories and memories of all those things that help families evolve. These include, snippets of how life used to be, the history behind family traditions, and insights to the many personalities that shaped families. Many, whose influence can still be seen, but tend to will fade away with each successive generation unless an effort is made to record and preserve them.
Many older people love to slip back in to the past. I remember how my grandmother would throw little anecdotes our way about her life. About how she got married at the tender age of 15, then travelled to Sri Lanka by ship – a journey that took over a month – and was introduced to a large, boisterous family. She told me about the cows in the backyard that gave fresh milk each day and the veralu, guava and jambu trees from which her younger brothers-in-law plucked fruit. How many little children of the time, went to school in rickshaws drawn by men, and you could count the number of cars that passed her house each day on your fingers. She painted verbal pictures of grand family dinners and outings. Each of these events needed a great deal of planning and preparation, and whilst they drew everyone together, they also sent many into despair. I have tried passing on these stories to my children but they never seem quite the same. I know I miss many of the finer details that would make her stories come alive and wish she were here to tell them.
Today we have at our disposal many tools that can help us preserve our histories. A compilation of photographs, home videos, letters and diary entries can provide a glimpse into a person’s life. But only when we can combine these with interviews of the primary source, the elders in our family, do we get the true essence of these stories. The gaps get filled in and the picture becomes complete. “A Wonderful Life Productions” is a company in the US that does exactly this. They chronicle people’s life stories through interviews, conversations and memorabilia (we have included a link below to a You Tube video that showcases some of their work). You, cannot access their services here in Sri Lanka, but even a home production, though less professional, could be just as priceless for generations to come. So the next time you are having chat with the elders in your family about their past, record the conversations. Those little tit bits will be gems for future generations.