The focus this month is not about capturing our parents’ stories of the past, but about recognizing and saving what’s important in our lives today — our dreams and fears, our grief and gratitude. It is a curious irony that even as we lament the lack of rich records of our ancestors, we continue to ignore countless opportunities to capture our stories for the future.

One Sunday morning about a month ago, we chatted over coffee with our 40-something friend Liz, mother of two boys. We were talking about video autobiographies as we typically do them — of people in their 70s and 80s. She said what she really wished she had was some audiovisual record of her mother as a younger woman — in her 20s, 30s, or 40s. What was her mother like then?

Liz said that’s what we should offer: videos of middle-aged or younger parents talking about their lives. Well, it’s not that we don’t offer that now, I told her, but I didn’t think the sandwich generation parents who typically hire us to record their mother’s and father’s lives would see the same value in telling their own stories. And didn’t many of them have video cameras at home, and years of footage chronicling their family’s lives?
 
Yes, she said, but if her experience was the norm, “family” translated to just kids, and parents appeared mostly in supporting roles, if at all. I had to agree the same was true for us, and most of our footage centers around activity — not reflection. Would my kids learn much about me when they were older by watching these videos? Not a chance.

A world of opportunities

If I could travel back in time, I would record my Mom at 30 talking about the challenges of raising a family (three children under the age of 6 and another on the way!), or catch her as a college girl after rafting the Colorado. I’d ask my 24-year-old father just out of business school what he hoped for his new sales job with DuPont — where he worked for 30 years.

But I can’t.

What I can do is answer those questions myself today — as I turn 50 in a few months — to save for my children tomorrow. What do my children mean to me? How did I find my vocation? What was it like to lose our son Sheehan at birth? I can also start to capture, on a regular basis, the sweet voices of our children (ages 6 and 10) describing their hopes and fears, singing their songs, and offering their quirky observations about the world. Not only will this be precious for my husband and I in the years to come, but it will become a priceless gift for our children and their children.

In the weeks since that conversation, we decided to add audio stories to our business, continuing to produce video memoirs, but now also offering audio memoirs and shorter interview sessions called Audio Keepsakes. These Audio Keepsakes will focus on capturing the present and the past for all ages — parents in the days or weeks following a birth; adult siblings remembering their mother or father who has died; a parent asking their recent high school or college graduate about their hopes and dreams for the future.

To remind you of the power of voice to move and entertain (and until we have audio samples), we encourage you to check out the StoryCorps Project at http://www.storycorps.net/. One story we love listening to (and quoting from) is a funny recollection titled, “Let’s talk about Miss Divine” — several stories down on the following page http://www.storycorps.net/listen/page/13.

If the idea of capturing today’s stories for tomorrow strikes a chord within you, we encourage you to sit down and list the stories you’d like to hear in the future — and then make a plan to start capturing them.