The Holidays have a tendency to bring out stories from the past. It can be a great time of re-living tales of holidays past, or other entertaining memories. It can also be a time of disturbing or deeply saddening stories that tell tales of your family history. As family members age, sometimes they feel the freedom to finally speak about times past that they haven't been able to bring themselves to speak of before. These times are certainly meant to be enjoyed, but sometimes they can be greatly beneficial to those who are willing to think a bit more deeply about what they mean.
Listen attentively to the stories going around you. You may catch hints of the emotion behind them if you listen carefully. Ask questions for clarification if you do not understand certain parts. Ask about where the events took place, ask about the age of the people involved. Get as many details as you can so that you can record the stories for future generations to enjoy.
Record the stories later by writing them down in a special book that you've set aside for this purpose. If you speak with older family members on the phone frequently, consider keeping notebook beside the phone so that you can jot notes while you speak.
Think through the implications. If you hear disturbing stories about women in your family history who have gone through strange events after giving birth, consider whether that might mean that post-par tum depression could be a pre-disposition in your genes. If there are bizarre stories of ancestors, question whether mental illnesses might be prevalent. If several people struggle with alcohol or drug abuse, think about what that could mean. There might not be official health diagnoses from those time periods, but stories can give you valuable information that may shed light on struggles that surface in your own life or those of other family members.
Research. Find out if there are ways to ensure that you & your loved ones can overcome those undesirable things that have been recurring in your family history. Even if there are things that are not physical in nature, but rather more emotional. If you see tendencies toward bitterness or unforgiveness, consider how you could change that trajectory in your own life so that you don't have to live with that extra burden. Instead of lamenting about how awful things have always been, take a chance at changing it!
Focus on the good. When you hear family histories that are about good in nature, be sure that you share those with others! Take note of those around you who have attributes that you would like to adopt. If you have a grandmother who is uncomplaining despite physical pain, ask her how she maintains her positive outlook. If you have a family member that is always good at choosing the perfect gift for others, ask them their secrets. If you have a father who perseveres despite repeated hardship, ask where he finds his strength. In short, learn from those in your family that have things to teach. They may also have tons of other attributes that are not so endearing, but choose to focus on their strengths & improving your strengths.
Old family stories can be valuable just for passing the time of day, or they can be valuable for generations to come, it just depends on you perspective. Listen, to the good and the bad. Take the good & learn from the bad. Then tell the stories (and the things you've learned from them) to those younger in your family & continue the family history!