Yes, a rare “early” post. I give you this gift today as I know many are beginning the holiday shopping bonanza. Just know that tomorrow I will panic ten times as I think, “Wait, don’t I have to post something today?”
I have never been a history buff. I have never been a history anything, really, – unless you count grabbing some shut-eye during the hours in which I should have been cracking those giant textbooks. I never really thought of ‘history’ as something that occurred within my very own family each and every day. ‘History’ had always been something that happened in days gone by, long ago. ‘History’ related to stories that involved revolutions or royal pairings or treaties – all conveyed by monotone professors who failed to capture my attention. More recently, ‘history’ related to lineages, traced via family roots courtesy of aunts or grandmas with little better to do.
Snooze. No, thank you.
Until I accidentally found Storyworth through a collision of life events (Yes, that is a link to purchase – I put it right there at the top in case you are now snoozing. Yes, I now have my first affiliate partnership. Did I just become an influencer?).
Life event one:
A few years ago, my mother added “mental hiccup” to the items we encountered during that crazy year we call “2020.” The fade out could not be pinpointed to anything obvious, so, it took quite some time to narrow down, eventually attributed to a chronic, undertreated UTI. Did you know that chronic, undertreated UTIs can lead to a total loss of mental abilities? We didn’t either. In some cases, can be so debilitating that the patient can reach a point of starting from scratch: eating, speaking, walking – all of the things, including memory.
Mom’s recovery involved all sorts of therapies, including memory. She was put to work on endless mental exercises, such as puzzles, reading, and brain games. Anything, really, to get her faculties re-engaged and active once again.
Life event two:
Last year at this exact time, I found myself in a pre-holiday shopping panic. I had most of my “people” covered, but then … why are parents so dang hard to shop for? We have never been a “go bananas” type of gifting family but, still, it is nice to be able to give something. My parents generally split their time between their actual home and their favorite spot at the beach. This makes gift-giving challenging because they are often not home to enjoy physical items. On the flip side, gift cards to restaurants seemed played out, and evidently 51 years old is too old for hand-drawn IOUs for hugs.
It was during this holiday shopping panic that I heard an advertisement for Storyworth on Gymcastic (Yes, that is another link. I am not an affiliate. I just love this flipping podcast). I really paid zero attention, zoning out to what I thought was this year’s version of “For just $9.99 a month, you can trace your roots!” Snooze.
A week later, I heard the ad again, and for some reason, I paid better attention. I believe it was the words “at the end of the year, you will receive a bound book” that grabbed my focus. Wait, what? A book? What would be in it? Stories from my parents’ lives? Didn’t I know all of those?
I hopped on the Storyworth page anyway.
I read about preserving one’s family history before it was lost with those that could actually tell the stories. This wasn’t about tracing roots, this was about retrieving tales from those who were there as witnesses. Tales that would disappear with aging minds, diminished mental faculties, and funerals.
And so, those life events collided into a deep thought (or seven):
My parents were definitely aging. My parents were, in fact, at an age where their passing wouldn’t even be considered a shock. They’ve lived long, full lives. Full of joys. Full of sorrows. Full of adventures. Full of laughter. Full of change and learning and growth. Full of stories. Suddenly, I felt incredibly naive in thinking that I knew all of their stories or that I had all the time in the world to spend fishing for new ones. Don’t we always plan on collecting our family’s stories sometime down the road?
Also, did I mention that Christmas was screaming its imminent arrival from my calendar? And I was behind on my shopping?
I clicked “Add to Cart.”
Here’s how it works:
Storyworth sends my parents a question each week, via email, about their lives. They respond. Simple. There are variations on how often questions land in mailboxes (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) and options to see the answers (I said “yes”) as they come back. Storyworth provides the questions OR you can submit your own. I mostly use canned questions but have asked my own, on occasion, such as with the Queen’s passing. I never would have thought to ask if my parents had watched her coronation. Now we have the story in writing: as a child, my mother was enthralled with Elizabeth and watched the pomp via a bus ticket to the nearest family friend with a television.
I really did think that after a month, the novelty would wear off and I’d either have to start the nagging (have you done your Storyworth?) while slowing down the frequency of the questions.
It has gone better than I could have imagined. My parents look forward to Mondays (question day) and recalling moments from their past together. My parents have not tired of the project at all – in fact, just the opposite. More than once I have received a phone call about a late question or a request for a different, better question because the one received would have been answered with a simple, short blurb.
And, as we near the holidays again, they have asked to do a second year of Storyworth.
There have been endless added bonuses to this project – beyond my rush to complete my holiday shopping and so far beyond giving my mother something cerebral that would not have her bored in three seconds. This has been the most informative year that I have ever had in relation to my parents and, by extension, their parents and their siblings, and their friends.
All things that I would never have discovered had I not clicked that “Add to Cart” button twelve months ago. And now, I’m getting a lesson in patience as I cannot wait to order their book at year’s end knowing that we will have a tangible record of their pasts at our fingertips. In case you couldn’t tell, I am a huge fan of Storyworth. Huge. So much so that I reached out and told them I was about to write one heck of an article singing their praises to which they responded “that’d be awesome, we’ll even give you an affiliate code and a tiny kickback.”
This is a slam-dunk gift that is easy to buy, doesn’t require wrapping, and no one will forget about twelve days after the holidays end.
Please do add it to your own cart.