A guest post by Julie Lefebve of Once Upon A Times
Do you remember it like this – or like this? Memory can play tricks on what happened but a published story of your life can’t...
I asked my brother the other day if he remembered the story mum used to tell about how she met our father. He said he did but went on to tell a completely different story to the one I remembered.
We then argued for about 30 minutes about this, all the time knowing we could never properly resolve the argument because our parents are no longer with us to settle the row, one way or the other.
My sister-in-law finally sorted it out by bringing lunch.
After tapas and wine we felt more kindly toward each other but more uncomfortable than we’d ever felt about the family stories we’d forgotten.
The reality was, we’d never properly listened to the stories. We thought we knew family stories that we’d heard loads of times but we were only half-listening most of the time. I have tears in my eyes as I write this but it’s true. We were busy: becoming adults, getting jobs, putting our own families together, having babies, changing nappies......
They were important stories because they were part of our heritage but we’d (ridiculously) ‘taken it for granted’ that they’d always be there to refer to so we hadn’t bothered to listen as keenly as we should have done. I shouldn’t beat myself up too much. Everybody I’ve spoken to knows exactly how I feel because they’ve also done it. Unless we commit our memories to a physical medium: a book, a film, these wonderful stories are going to be altered or worse, lost forever.
The ‘library of life’ is finite and memories fade, change and finally disappear for good. It’s sad beyond sad when they do and too late to do anything about it. Once Upon A Times Publishing was set up especially to capture beautiful family stories for families now and for future generations. They are printed in a choice of fabulously-designed biographies to become treasured physical family heirlooms forever – which will avoid any such sibling argument of the type I’ve described.
Some people prefer words and there are Once Upon A Times options to enable folks to deal with the detail. Perhaps they’re not the photo-type family, anyway, but are bursting with stories. And, I know if I had the chance again, there’d be far fewer photos of my mum or dad than there are, say, of my own children.
Others believe that photos can do the talking for them but understandably treasure the family picture library they’ve built up over the years. Once Upon A Times has top technology so that we don’t need to take photos away but can scan them in the comfort of the home. (Personally I’d be comfortable with only that when it came to using cherished photos). We have several options for picture-led biographies, interspersed with family stories.
Whether you want words, pictures or both and in what ratio is somewhat by the by. Once Upon A Times can work that out with you when we get talking. The important bit, as far as I can see, is crystallising the memory in a beautiful permanence so it’s always there to refer to and hand down so the rest of the family to refer to it.
Julie Lefebve is a writer and journalist who is the co-founder of Once Upon A Times Publishing with Cathy Beck, a long-time friend and colleague. The company publishes family stories/biographies to capture wonderful memories so they can be treasured by generations forever.