“Well, hello Dolly!” my Grandpa Furniss would holler every time I called his house – not only as a little girl, but as a grown woman. For some reason my Gramps always called me Dolly. It made me feel loved and adored. Who doesn’t want to be someone’s Dolly? Just thinking of his voice stirs rich, happy memories for me. Hearing his voice again last fall motivated me on a more intentional path of telling stories with my family.
My relationship with my grandparents was purely magical. We adored each other. From the time I knew numbers, I memorized their phone number – 621-5473. I would call them up for any old thing and this went on for as long as they lived, well into my adult years, so hearing anything resembling their voice is special for me, because they are a part of who I am.
Telling stories – a voice from the past
So last fall as I walked up the stairs carrying a large load of overflowing laundry, and I heard that voice unexpectedly, tears sprang to my eyes and I almost dropped my laundry. I quickly scanned the room for the source of the voice I heard – that sweet calming voice – you know, the kind of voice when you hear it you know they can sing like an angel – that’s my grandpa’s voice. His voice stirs some of my best memories and I hadn’t heard it in over a decade since my his passing. Yet, hearing it immediately brought the same joy it brought as I would hear his voice on the other end of the telephone or when we would visit each other and embrace several times a week for nearly my whole life.
The source wasn’t an angelic visitation from the dead, but a simple video recording of an interview I had conducted with my grandparents about 20 years ago, brought back to life by the miracle of technology. The video recording from the mid-90s was from a senior project my husband was doing for his broadcasting degree. Our goal had been to interview each member of my extended family and my husband would piece together the interviews with photos for a great family video. He finished the video as much as a young father working two jobs and remodeling a house can do, but always wanted to go back and finish it just a little bit better. Then five more babies came, jobs changed a few times, houses got remodeled (again) and here we are with a bin full of videos – or priceless treasures as I often refer to them – of my beloved family telling stories that bind us together.
Telling stories – a treasured keepsake
My husband never worked in broadcasting and in the last 20 years he fell in love with family history work. He now works for FamilySearch and ended up taking some genealogy classes to get an advanced degree. The class required him to work on a family history project and that long-since dusty box of videos now needed to come back to life. For me, it brought mixed feelings of joy and angst, knowing how much time it would require from my husband, but a chance to see all those great interviews. I had no idea that hearing the voices would catch me so off guard and fill me with so much joy.
In order for my husband to work on the project, he has to play the videos out loud to transfer them to digital media. The result, a pleasant surprise of recounting all those wonderful memories – as told by each member of my family. The cool thing is, I wasn’t the only one caught off-guard. As my husband started that first video my children all emerged to hear the voices too. My three oldest children remember my grandparents on varying levels, and my three youngest never had the chance to meet them. But they all came to know them over the next few Saturdays as we went about our Saturday activities and the videos did their work converting to digital media.
Telling stories – tying generations together
My kids learned that my grandpa considered my grandma to “always be the most beautiful girl in the room,” and that my cousin who was my age always considered me to be “one of his closest friends” growing up and that we got into a bit of trouble.
They also learned of their own grandfather and his love for his wife’s parents – and his wife, something my dad, who is pretty quiet, may not always reveal. It opened up conversations for my husband and I to talk about how we met each other and how life was back in the “old days” of “big CD’s” (we call them records,) clunky video tapes, poor video lighting and all the oddities from 20 years ago.
Telling stories – complete joy
And what did I learn? That video project, that I thought was strange at best at the time, is now a family gift that has brought me untold joy. Is the project finished yet? Not quite. It’s a long process when in the throws of raising a large family, but it’s recorded, it’s a treasure and it’s our story.
What’s the biggest reason for telling stories? For the greatest happiness money can’t buy – pure, unfiltered joy.
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links which means if you purchase some of the products we mention by using our links, we make a commission. Be assured that I’m only sharing the methods I actually use, but I do appreciate when you buy with my links because it helps fund articles like this one.
Rachel Trotter is a senior writer/editor at Evalogue.Life.She tells people’s stories and shares hers to encourage others. She loves family storytelling. A graduate of Weber State University, she has had articles featured on LDSLiving.com and Mormon.org. She and her husband Mat have six children and live on the East Bench in Ogden, Utah.
Do a family history interview
Sign up and we will email you a free, printable download of our mini-course to conduct a great oral history interview. You will be done in a week or less.