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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recording our Past V

In 2009 I started posting articles about recording our past.
Today I am posting a long overdue part IV post.

Recording memories.

Senses play a large roll in our memory.

The sense of smell is perhaps the strongest. A whiff of perfume or aftershave, the smell of a certain soap, flowers or a special food can trigger a long forgotten memory.
When you encounter a familiar smell, it may spark an entire memory from your past.
When the memory returns, write it down.
I remember a scene from a Waltons show concerning the family of Grandpa's older brother. His wife was reminiscing about her husband and remembering the smell of Bay Rum on her wedding day. Her soon to be husband had went to the barber that morning and the barber had applied Bay Rum after giving him his haircut and shave. (Bay Rum aftershave has been around since 1838).
Honeysuckle grew on the path down to my Grandpa Woods' house. The scent of it brings back  memories of visiting him when I was a small child.

The sense of taste brings back memories. Foods from when you or your family were young, such as a certain medicine, candy, baked bread, stacked applesauce cake, etc. can spark memories from the past.

The sense of sight also brings back memories. Going back to where you used to live or attended school, looking at old pictures or home movies or watching old movies may bring in a flood of memories.

Why do we remember some things and forget others? We have selective memories. Our firsts, events that had a big impact on us or a very emotional event will  likely be something that we remember.

I have found that when I would ask an older  relative a general question such as, what was it like when you were younger - they won't remember a thing. So I ask specific questions.
Both of you will be surprised at the memories that flood back.

Laura of Little House fame had a memory book. We should all have a memory book to write down our memories in and to write down the memories of other family members, so our past will not be forgotten.

The next time you get a whiff of something and it brings back a memory - write it down.
The next time you taste a familiar food and it brings back a memory - write it down.
The next time you see a picture of days past and it brings back a memory - write it down.

Make a Memory Jar. Type a list of questions, run them off on your computer and cut them into strips. Fold them and put in a mason jar (I like to use a wide mouth one). Take one question out each week and glue or tape it onto a page in a notebook and write down your answers.

Make more than one and give them to other family memories, especially the older ones, and tell them to do the same. Soon you will have a collection of memories.


I have two word documents I would be glad to email to anyone who wants them. One tells you how to make and  label the memory jar and the other is a list of questions. All you have to do is print them off, cut into strips and put into your jar. You can add to or delete any of the questions to fit your family better. Either email me or leave your email in a comment if you want me to send those files to you.

We need to keep family stories alive!

Go here for my other posts about recording our past.

Posted byJanet Smart   on Writing in the Blackberry Patch.



  1. SUCH a great idea! My daddy was so good at remembering things, all the way back to his childhood. A lot of things from my childhood are in a book I wrote for my grandchildren, but now and then something pops up that I had forgotten. I just may give this a try!

    1. Thanks lil red hen! I love writing down memories.


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