Imagine being able to look back on more than 75 years of life. That's three-quarters of a century. Seventy-five years ago there were no TVs, no microwaves, no computers or cell phones. The world was in the midst of World War II and people read about what was going on in the newspaper, not online. It was an entirely different age.
It might seem incomprehensible to young people today, but there are people still alive who remember the early decades of the 20th century. In fact, you're likely related to some of them: your grandparents. They have decades of memories and information to pull from, if only people were interested enough to ask and learn lessons from the past.
Asking your elders about their lives might feel intimidating, or perhaps you think they have no interesting stories to tell. In fact, some of the best stories ever told only became public knowledge because someone cared enough to ask questions to their grandparents. Start with your grandmother, if you have one living. Grandmas have a natural knack for remembering details from their lives that their grandchildren would find interesting.
Here are 20 questions to ask your grandmother about her life and the world she grew up in:
Questions about her origins
Here are a few ideas to help lay the groundwork for learning your grandmother's life story. Find out where her life began and work forward. Use a recorder or video camera if possible so you can re-listen to the stories later and share them with other family members.
1. Where and when were you born?
2. Can you tell me about your parents?
3. How many siblings do you have and where did you fall in line?
4. What did you and your siblings do for fun?
5. What kind of home did you grow up in?
Questions about her childhood interests
You'll quickly find there's a lot more to your grandmother than the sweet, elderly woman you've known all your life. There was a time she was young, too, and possibly mischievous, unruly and even trouble-making.
6. What was school like?
7. What's the biggest trouble you ever got in?
8. What were some major world events in your growing up years?
9. What were your favorite and least favorite household chores?
10. What was your first job?
11. What did you do for entertainment?
Questions about her adult life and marriage
As your questions approach the time in life you're experiencing, compare your two lives. You may realize that while there are many differences, there are some uncanny similarities, as well.
12. What did you do after high school?
13. How did you meet Grandpa?
14. What do you remember about your wedding day?
15. What was my mom/dad like as a child?
16. What was the hardest part of being a parent for you?
17. What was your favorite part of being a parent?
18. What was your most favorite vacation?
Questions about today
Take an interest in how she spends her days now, and perhaps you'll realize how much your attention and interest means to her.
19. What are your favorite things to do now?
20. What do you want to be remembered for?
It's a sad fact that grandparents won't be around forever. And how depressing it is to think of the many amazing stories that pass on without ever being told. Don't let that happen to your grandparents. Talk to them now, record their stories and let their wisdom live on through you.
Watch "Woman in Gold" to experience one grandmother's important story and learn a lesson from the past.