good life with abi abley
Part of cultivating a good life is making your family’s history a part of the now.
I love reading and have many treasured books, but the one I prize above all others is the one my grandpa wrote: When Grandpa Was a Little Boy. He grew up in London, England, in the middle of World War II. He was an adventurous little boy who often found himself in trouble, not because he sought to be naughty but because his adventures just seemed to go wrong! As children, my mum would retell stories from this book until we knew them by heart.
My brothers and I asked for the same stories over and over again. There was the time Grandpa found some of his older brother’s bullets which he had left at home while on leave. Grandpa decided to make a “super firework” and use the overflow pipe of the toilet to send his rocket into the sky. Only the firework didn’t shoot outwards as he expected and he ended up blowing the toilet off the wall. Another favourite involved his bicycle. Grandpa found a dynamo in the shed and, thinking it would make pretty lights, attached it to his bicycle. He then went cycling around London. He was delighted to discover that instead of powering a light, the dynamo issued a noise. He was a bit alarmed when pedestrians started taking cover and drivers abandoned their cars in the middle of the road. Unbeknownst to him, the noise issued from his dynamo mimicked the air raid siren. He found out this was the case when two policemen stopped him and took him home. They got hold of him after he had cycled several blocks around London and caused everyone to go diving for the air raid shelters.
We enjoyed hearing about the mischief he got up to. But, more importantly, we developed a closer connection to our grandpa from knowing about him and his childhood. My grandpa didn’t keep a journal; we have these stories because Mum compiled a list of questions, or prompts, for Grandpa to write about. The prompts were connected to his childhood, his education, his family life. Grandpa took her idea, started writing, and the book When Grandpa Was a Little Boy became a part of our lives when I was four years old. In December 2014, I talked with Grandpa about how his book influenced our childhood. A few months later, I received a second book documenting his life in the Navy. It is a book full of new stories to learn by heart and grow to love.
I know lots of people who switch off at the mention of “family history.” My love of family history starts with the stories. I begin my research by interviewing family members and finding out more than the facts on documents. Birth dates, marriage dates, death dates are all important, but itʼs the stories that turn the name into a person. Our family’s history has always been something that is present in my life. As I think about this now, I wonder what stories I can tell any future children my handsome man and I have. I want them to grow up knowing the stories of their ancestors just as I have. I hope that like my brothers and I did, they will ask for more stories that feature Mum or Dad (or Aunts/Uncles). I am all about telling our stories and tend to mainly use my camera to do so, but I have started thinking more about the journaling side of documenting life. Looking back on each day, I ask, “If I were to write a children’s book about today, what would the story be? Which actions or conversations would I focus on?” I feel incredibly lucky that my grandpa has taken the time to write two books, filled with stories that have blessed our lives. Each of our lives are full of stories.
Those stories deserve to be told, recorded, and remembered.
Abi Abley is a part of our Creative Team using the Project Life® App. She currently resides in Vancouver, BC with her husband Dane. Abi recently published a blog post featuring 52 prompts for writing about childhood. You can check out her blog post here.