Capturing Family Stories

Capturing Our Story | by: Brittany Deininger, Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Sound Options

It was December 2011 when I was contemplating the shape Christmas would take that year. I was planning my annual pilgrimage back home to the mountains of Idaho to see family. This year however, I was making an intentional trip to see my ailing grandmother. (That is her in the photo.) It’s a familiar story for millions of Americans. My parents, aunt and uncle had spent the last 6 months taking shifts in that strange and mysterious role reversal where the adult child becomes care taker to their parent. It’s a time filled with baby monitors and late night trips to the bathroom, but it is also a time filled with stories. The photos come out, memories are palpable in the home, and we gather around the kitchen table and try to put words to what our loved one’s life was about.

As an avid listener of NPR, I recalled an important partner of theirs I had listened to called StoryCorp. StoryCorps’ Memory Loss Initiative has supported and encouraged people with various forms of memory loss to share their stories with loved ones and future generations. Cue light bulb overhead. Thanks to modern technology, I could become my own StoryCorp archivist armed only with a single question and a cell phone to record the answer.

The day before Christmas Eve I boarded a plane to Idaho not knowing what I was going to see or hear. Questions came to mind like, “would grandma remember me?” and “would she remember a story?” I pulled up to my grandmother’s house and my aunt came out to greet me and told me grandma was having a good day. For us that meant she was out of bed, talking, knew who I was. It was a very good day. My grandmother was able to weave a story through memories of house fires, her own grandmother, random acts of kindness, and treasured objects. It was a beautiful cohesive narrative. It was the first gift of Christmas. Our stories shape our lives. No matter how small or grand, they are worth telling and through the telling we are connected to one another.This holiday season, I invite you to all be an archivist. Go looking for the old familiar stories and the untold ones.

Here at Sound Options, we believe that connection and laughter are a big part of quality of life. As you are visiting family, we hope you find your own way to capture family treasures, connect, and create new memories and stories. To get you started, we have included resources like a list of interview questions that you can ask your loved ones and friends as well as a link to StoryCorp where you can listen to great examples and download the Memory Loss Initiative's toolkit to preserve and share your stories. If you are looking for task-free time to build intentional moments with your loved one this holiday season, Sound Options can provide exceptional caregivers to assist with activities of daily living and the extra errands that come with the holidays.  

Story Interview Questions:

  • What part of the country did you grow up in? How did the landscape shape your childhood?
  • Tell me a story about a time when you laughed so hard, you cried.
  • What adversity have you overcome in your life?
  • Who were your favorite family and friends growing up?
  • What did you want to be when you were young?
  • Where is your favorite place on earth? What memories do you have of that place?
  • What is an embarrassing moment that you’ve had?
  • What is a scary moment that happened to you?
  • What was it like raising children?
  • What was the first car you ever bought?
  • Did you ever make a meal that went totally wrong?
  • What are your favorite hobbies/ past times?
  • What is a book that you love and really stuck with you?

The point of these story interviews is not to answer every question perfectly, but to get people talking. If your loved one is not able to remember or answer all of the questions, don’t worry about it. Let the conversation evolve naturally and let them speak about what they want to talk about. 

StoryCorps | For more info. on the Memory Loss Initiative and to download their toolkit visit:


Published on December 3, 2012.