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07 December 2014

Sentimental Sunday: Conference Class Triggers Bittersweet Memory

Last week I shared how inspired I was during the class Putting Family Back Into Family History. I briefly mentioned that I had several writing activities to do during the class. I was struck by the power this particular memory brought back to me. Two years ago this past Thursday, my mother passed away. In the writing class, I was able to capture and preserve a valuable life lesson.

Penny Geiszler in the 1980s
Mom about the time of this story
My mother worked as a secretary or an administrative assistance for most of my growing up years. One Friday, she had worked all day and was called into her boss's office. She was told she was being let go and given a pink slip. Her heart sank. 
Mom was the one with the stable job that had health benefits in the 1980s. She knew this would be a great loss to our family. In addition to bringing home her desk items, she had to pick up my birthday cake. You see, I was having a few friends over for a slumber party. She was supposed to leave work with a decorated cookie cake. Now, she was carrying home despair, her work belongings, and a cake. 
When Mom got home, she did what she could to focus on my party. Thankfully, only two friends were over. The thing that strikes me most is what I remember about my mom. I knew mom was sad but, in that moment, she was concerned about me and my special day.
This was a powerful 5-minute writing assignment. I love this memory in how it starts out really sad but then turns to a positive note.

Remember how I said last week the teacher took things from good to great? Again, I don't want to give away her whole class. However, I'll share what I was then inspired to do with this memory.

Leave the backgrounds in historic photos
The room where I believe this story took place, The photo is
horrible but I remember the house by that wall paper.
I have many memories based on certain elements in the story. I remember this was a time when mom had curly hair and big glasses (see photo above). I seem to remember which room she was in when she broke the news to dad. I seem to remember hearing it (perhaps Dad reacted loudly when her heard the news) and leaving my friends to give her a comforting hug.  Additionally, I remember several physical characteristics of one friend who came to the party. That helps me know which friends to look for in photos, if it is still possible. Perhaps I can look through my school files to try to remember who would have been at the party.

Because I could visualize the room the story took place, I knew which rental house we lived in at the time. As such, I am nearly certain of which years the story could have happen in.

With the memory of which house and the narrowed down year range, I could look at mom's resume (see below) and figure out the job she was released from. I am confident that I have the right time frame figured out for this story based on this resume, and the scribbled note.

Personal History
A resume is an important piece of personal history. Have you saved yours?

As I pieced together parts, I now have more depth to the memory. I can expand the 5-minute writing exercise to describe the home we were in, where it was located in Texas, the job mom was released from, and so much more. Without my mother here to help me expand on the story, I was surprised how much I could recreate on my own. All of this started with a great teacher inspiring me to write and showing how the memory can develop further.

Family history really is all about the stories. I'm so glad I took the writing class.


  1. Ah ha -- this is what I'm missing in my own writing. I can recall a memory and write about it, but how to expand on it, that's what I need to learn how to do.

    1. I hope my little effort helped you get some ideas.

  2. Great story, Devon! Loved your detective work.

    1. Thanks Amanda. It was fun to revisit these treasures.