Writeyourmemoir.com has wonderful advice and support for people who want to tell their stories. I love Martha Jewett’s suggestion of using movies to jar memories.
Rita’s mother was a hidden child during the Holocaust. She never talked about it. Then she fell and broke her heel. She went to Rita’s house to recuperate.
To relax in the evenings, Rita and her mother watched movies on Netflix. Seven nights in a row they glommed The Winds of War, a 1983 TV miniseries starring Robert Mitchum, Ali MacGraw, and Jan-Michael Vincent.
Robert Mitchum plays U.S. Navy officer Victor “Pug” Henry, stationed in Europe before World War II officially begins. The script by Herman Wouk (based on his novel) is a period drama full of leisurely conversations and formal cocktail parties, cut in with combat newsreel footage. As the Nazis invade and Europe unravels, communication lines are cut off. Messages don’t get through. Family members can’t find one another.
All of a sudden, Rita’s mother started talking to Rita about all her experiences. She talked and talked and talked.
“She told me everything,” Rita said. “It was amazing.”
I know that showing movies to our children gave us a chance to talk to them about historical events, technology (“Mom, what is a telegram?”), and our own family memories. Even if you’re not writing a memoir, it can be a great way to begin conversations about memories and family history.