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GUEST COLUMN: Stories make you who you are

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Laura Greaves

It seems as though 2014, Sarnia’s Centennial year, has already come and nearly gone. It has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on Sarnia’s history. For many, the Centennial has also provided a chance to share our own memories of the city and what life was like here in decades past.

This year’s focus on history is an excellent opportunity to start thinking about collecting and preserving your own family stories. For a select few, all of this talk of history might already have encouraged you to begin writing your own history.

Setting down the story of your life can seem like a daunting task. Where do I begin? How do I decide what to include? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Begin by describing the house that you grew up in. What did the exterior look like? How was the inside laid out? Who lived there with you? What special memories do you have from that house? When did you move away? Where did you move next?

Then take a look through your photo album and pick a few photos.  Begin by describing who is in the photo, and where it takes place. Then explain why the picture was taken. Were you on vacation? Were you celebrating a holiday or special event? Lists can also be a useful starting point.

Describe as many firsts as you can remember. Who was your first boyfriend or girlfriend? What was your first job? What was your experience buying your first car? Your first house? Try to include as much detail as possible.

Use your other senses to get you thinking about your past as well. Smell and taste can often help trigger memories from earlier times. Pull out your grandmother’s cookbook and search through the old recipes. Prepare a favourite childhood meal. Invite family members over to share the meal and ask them about their memories. Have coffee with a sibling. Invite an aunt and uncle out for lunch. Ask them what stories they remember about you. It is amazing how differently they may remember the same events.

The year of 2014 is an excellent time to begin writing the story of your life. Whether you are considering writing a family history or a personal memoir, you will be safeguarding your history and traditions, not only for yourself, but for your children and your grandchildren.

This is an opportunity to not only put names to all of the faces in the photo albums, but to share the stories that made you who you are.

 Laura Greaves is the owner of Photo Box Stories, a business that helps people collect and preserve personal histories


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