Pensieve for Family Memories

memoirsIt just so happens that over the past few months I’ve come across several accounts of family histories where people took the time and effort to research their genealogy and to share what they learned, as well as their own history.

One such story was an actual book with a detailed memoir of a family with lots of photographs. One was a plastic folder with lots of hand-written notes, old photographs stuffed in clear pockets, and newspaper cuttings folded in half. One was a small brochure with over a dozen memoirs of former children of Stalingrad, who as adults shared what it was like to be in the middle of that horrendous battle. All of those were parts of history that were precious, and not just because they were about people that I knew, but because they documented human experience in ways that would otherwise be lost.

Just like in  Harry Potter movie, Albus Dumbledore had this Pensieve, a magical instrument he used to view memories.

It seems that it’s a sign for gathering those stories from those around me. In that spirit, when we were visiting family a few weeks ago, I recorded part of the conversation with grandmother about her childhood and surviving Stalingrad. Not surprisingly, her account was filled with details that didn’t make it to the print version, because, she thought, no one would be interested. But how can one not be interested in the fact that she, for example, was saved by a German doctor and is still grateful for that? Or lead the family that took her in to a secret stash of groceries that her mother and aunt had buried before they were killed in an air raid?

The problem is that somehow I can’t get myself to record the second half of the conversation. Even though I talk to her every few days, I can’t bring it up. It’s not about her not wanting to share, or being traumatized by reliving it in her mind. It’s just somehow I feel like I were to record the whole thing, she would soon be gone. I know. Irrational. She could be gone at any moment as is and then I’d feel even worse that I didn’t finish it. But I still somehow feel that as long as this conversation is to be had, she would be around. What would you do?

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2 thoughts on “Pensieve for Family Memories

  1. Finish this conversation. Collect the stories. Then start another one. Like Scheherazade, weave another story each day and prolong the telling of the stories. Your family stories are so rich and full and truly worthy of telling. You will never regret gathering the memories while you can. Your grandmother will not regret the telling. She is giving you the gift of memories.

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