Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Preserving Memories on Tape

Christmas 2002:  Aware that our mother’s health was rapidly declining, my sister prepared a special present for her.  That Christmas, she gave Mom the opportunity to preserve memories:  an oral history package consisting of a cassette tape player, four blank cassette tapes, and a small booklet of family history to trigger memories.  After Mom opened the present, Jamie explained the intent of the gift (to record her memories of family stories), asked her to attempt recording the stories herself, and promised to help if needed.

Although she was nervous, my mother managed to record nearly 90 minutes of material over the first few months.  She usually recorded in segments of about five to ten minutes.  When she returned for the next session, she would listen to what she had said previously and then would open with any corrections.

Jamie visited twice during the spring and summer of 2003.  While my father was out doing his volunteer work at the local hospital, Jamie spent time with Mom, helping her move ahead with the oral history.  Jamie would ask leading questions or bring up subjects and then let Mom talk.  When needed, Jamie would ask for clarifications.

“She was very self-conscious doing it,” Jamie said, “but she conceded it was a good idea.”  She understood that it was important to keep these stories alive within the family.  Jamie was particularly interested in getting a record of the old Virginia stories.  “I wanted her to tell about Aunt Snick holding off the Yankees with a shotgun and how Uncle Frank started the Page County Fair.”

These stories, and many more, are on the four hours of reminiscences preserved on the cassette tapes.

© 2010 Lee Price

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