Have you ever had a conversation with a relative about a family story and you assumed that they had the same perspective as you? Midway through the conversation you find out that they remember the incident completely differently?
That’s exactly what happened to my brother, John and I a couple of weeks ago.
My grandparents lived in Michigan; a four hour drive for my family. A few times a year, my parents would pack snacks and load us kids into the car for a long road trip. I remember being smushed in the back seat with the four of us kids fighting to get enough elbow room. Inevitably squabbling would ensue over who was hot or cold, if the windows should be rolled up or down, how much room we had in the seat and who ate the last snack.
While us kids were young, my parents had a few different cars. I remember a station wagon, a large conversion van and a mini van. It didn’t matter what car we were in, I just remember being uncomfortably smushed.
As we pulled into my grandparents driveway, one of us kids would be yanking on the door to get out before the car was in park. It felt good to get out!
My brother, John, remembers the road trip differently.
My parents typically had two cars. My mom had a car and my dad had a company work truck. John swears that at least one time we made the four hour trip in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck. It had a cap so we were protected from the elements. He remembers Dad telling us to lay down so we weren’t bouncing around in the back of the bed.
The rest of the family doesn’t remember this. How can he have a memory that none of us share? We think that John might be confusing it with another memory, or have dreamed it or something. Anything to explain how he is the only one who remembers this road trip.
The point I’m trying to make is that whatever story you tell, try to interview or do research to get another perspective on the same story. Contact cousins, aunts, uncles, anyone who may have experienced or heard the story. Just like a detective, piece together all the sides of the story to try and get the closest you can to the core truth of the story. You might be surprised what you learn.