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What do you remember from your childhood? If you’re like most people, the answer may be, “Not much.” The older you get, the more remote and vague your youngest years may seem. That can be so frustrating when you want to document your life story (and the first chapter is missing!) or bring to mind clues from your childhood that would help you research your family history.
When starting to piece together your childhood memories, try following these three steps:
1. Capture your memories as they are.
You may not have many clear, consistent memories before about age 10. The ones you do have may seem fragmented. That’s because you experienced the world as a child, with a child’s emotions and perceptions, and you stored them away in the same fashion. But these memories still have value. Write them down. Then think about them over the course of several days or weeks. You may find bits of memory or explanation resurfacing. Add them to your written account.
2. “Borrow” memories from loved ones.
It’s not cheating to gather memories about your youngest years from those who remember them better. Ask parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, old neighbors and longtime friends about specific events or your childhood generally. Their memories will have limitations, too, but it’s worth asking.
3. Research your past to fill in the blanks.
Once you’ve compiled your memories alongside those of your loved ones, you may still identify gaps in the stories. Consider what missing details may be researched, particularly those that would bring the story back alive for you. Perhaps you could look up the specs on the 1950 Oldsmobile your father bought, the names of your grandparents’ neighbors or the route you would have taken on that road trip the summer you turned 12.
Learn more about each of these steps—from writing down and fleshing out vague memories to researching their contexts—in the Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy by Sunny Jane Morton.
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