Grandma’s Storybook – Wit, Wisdom, and Words of Advice
My Grandma Tanner loved the color purple. Orchid purple to be exact, but lavender, lilac, plum, mauve, violet and even fuschia were close enough to qualify as “purple” and any of those color tones were beloved. I had to smile when the publisher selected purple as the color for the cover of Grandma’s Storybook: Wit, Wisdom, and Words of Advice. It is almost exactly the color she used to decorate her bedroom. Purple is the color of “Grandma” in my personal color wheel. And since she inspired many of the question prompts we wrote inside, it was only appropriate that the entire book should be designed in “her” color.
Grandma’s Storybook is a journal designed with question prompts on each page that will help your Grandma remember and record some of her favorite family stories.
Inspiration for Grandma’s Storybook
My Grandma loved lots of beautiful things: African violets, pretty dishes, beautiful penmanship, perfectly-shaped homemade Parker House Rolls, and especially my Grandpa. Well, Grandpa wasn’t especially beautiful, but she adored him even though he teased her mercilessly and parked rusted vehicles where she thought there should have been rosebeds. My brother sometimes drew the task of helping Grandma mow the lawn when we visited. He used to joke that every time Grandpa moved a piece of farm equipment, leaving a bare spot of ground, Grandma would plant grass to prevent him from parking any more machinery in that particular spot in the future. Consequently, there was a LOT of grass on their 25-acre farm.
There were also raspberry bushes–hundreds of them. She made fresh raspberry jam by the quart, not in little sissy half-pint freezer containers. There were giant weeping willow trees, Idaho sunsets, and an assortment of stray farm cats who could count on her leaving warm milk on the porch for them every morning. If anyone besides Grandma opened the back door, the cats would scatter like marbles dropped on a cement driveway. They would hide underneath the lawnmower, streak into the tall weeds by the milking barn, or vanish into the cornfield.
What will you wish you had asked your own Grandma?
I guess I had my own Grandma in mind as I wrote the question prompts for Grandma’s Storybook. I suppose that many of them reflect the questions I wish I had asked her: How did Grandpa propose to you? What were you most afraid of? What is your favorite comfort food?
Grandma’s Storybook helps families document their favorite family stories about the Grandma they love. We created versions for Mom, Dad and Grandpa as well so you can choose the version that is most appropriate. The focus of each was creating a space and motivation for families to collect and record happy memories–while they still can.
Getting Started: Free up one hour in your busy life
One afternoon, I hauled a borrowed video camera to Grandma Tanner’s house. This was in 1988, so the camera was about the size of a briefcase. I had simply called them and asked if I could interview them for an hour. I had no idea how grateful I would be someday for that precious hour of their time.
Grandma and Grandpa sat on the couch across from me and started to tell me stories. Some I had heard before, but most were completely new to me, including Grandpa’s story about how his father had nothing to give him for Christmas one year, so he took off his own wristwatch and mailed it to Grandpa. There was the story about how Grandma accidentally hit and killed a little boy one day when a friend was trying to teach her how to drive. They talked about living in South Africa as missionaries with a mongoose who lived in the ceiling and terrorized them at night, and how Grandma would wake up in the morning and have to brush ants out of her hair.
She shared her heartbreak at carrying five babies to term but losing four of them at birth. He shared how he built their farmhouse in Idaho out of cinderblocks with nothing but a few tools and his own bare hands. He told me how he stole chickens from a neighbor when he was a youngster, and how the juvenile judge sentenced him to join the Boy Scouts of America.
There’s no such thing as a boring family story
I often encounter people who insist their life isn’t interesting enough to write a story about. But I’ve interviewed dozens of people, and have yet to discover one whose life I considered “boring.” I’m certain that your family stories are worth documenting too. Sit tight. Over the next year, I’ll dedicate much of this blog to showing you how.