In the next few weeks I will be teaching a great deal of programs about immigration. The museum and outreach program focus on the stories of the people who have left their homes looking for a better, or different, life here in Connecticut. Being the son of an immigrant, the program has special meaning for me, and it has made me think about my own story.
I don’t know a lot about my family’s past, and as time goes by I lose more and more information. My dad was born in Yemen, leaving home at an early age, traveling the world on ships and boats until he found his way to Connecticut. His life before I was born is a bit of a mystery to me, I have some documents, mostly in different languages, but most of his history has been passed on to me in stories. As we approach the 18th anniversary of his death those stories fade, change, and lose meaning because I don’t have anyone to pass them on to.
A few years ago I started to write them down, but life and the weight of writing it all down got in the way, so the few I did write are gathering dust in an old notebook. I do a lot of writing for both my jobs, so when I get home the last thing I want to do is write more, especially writing that can be rather emotional. So the stories stayed in my head, until this month. An email went around the staff about a new website that helps families collect their stories. It sounded a like a fun experiment so my cousin and I joined the site and started posting our stories. The fun part is it allows us to break down the stories into smaller pieces, helping to take away the tasking of writing them all down at once. It gives us a focus, and lets us share our stories with each other.
I’m not sure how long we will do this, or if it will be right for us, but it has been a fun experiment. So I wonder how do you keep your family history alive?