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Susan’s Video Memoir: Embarassment overcome

It wasn’t an easy decision for Susan to submit to the process of producing a video memoir. Intelligent, modest and private, the thought of talking about herself for a whole day during production of the video was not at all natural for her. And yet, she has so much to share.

Susan has so much family history for a start. Some of it is committed to memory – insofar as it relates to parents and grandparents, her childhood, her meeting and marrying husband and pastor Jim.

Video memoirs are the written memoirs of the modern age

But a whole lot more of Susan’s history is contained in written memoirs of one kind or another that have been passed down over the years. Like the book her grandmother put together for her father. It documents the family history and his young life in photos and in her beautiful long hand writing. That book ends with the death of her grandfather – the death of the husband of the writer – who was tragically taken away when a parked truck slipped down a hill and took away for ever him and his companion.

Another memoir of sorts is the journal her mother kept when she was in college. Prosaic, it records the sort of day to day items you might expect: dates, studying, visits to the dentist. Yet it’s an astonishing window to a person and a time that is now beyond the reach of all inquiry. It is a tangible link to a life that means so much not just to Susan but to all the generations that will follow. Why don’t we all keep journals, you find yourself wondering.

Because of these memoirs, few of us can reach back and connect as readily to our ancestors as Susan. She can hold much of her history in her hands. So having had the benefit of these biographies of her ancestors, Susan felt a duty – stronger and more tangibly than some perhaps – to continue the discipline and to do for her descendants what her ancestors did for her. Only Susan’s canvas would not be print – it would be a video memoir.

Feeling the tug of autobiography

Susan also felt the tug of the autobiography a little more than most because of her profession. A graduate of Oberlin College, Susan’s career choice was to be a librarian. She spent her life holding the works and lives of others in her hands as she planned, purchased, cataloged and even shelved in the college library where she worked. Her career spanned carbon paper to WiFi and she was instrumental in bringing the early databases to her college library. So a memoir in video was no kind of culture shock for Susan.

And she certainly has the audience for her video memoir. Grandchildren have arrived, and especially because they live on the opposite side of the country from her and Jim, Susan was concerned that as much of the family history be available to them as possible. Not that she is a stranger, she visits often and is active enough to be able to enjoy bicycle rides with them.

Susan now lives in history

Susan’s video memoir is titled “Living in History”. It showcases a rich photographic record, and Susan’s work, in combination with the work of her numerous cousins, in documenting the family history. And that work and her video memoir will help keep the memories of the family ancestors alive – and help all the family remember who they are.

Video memoirs are an increasingly available and increasingly popular means of preserving both personal and family stories. It is true that many subjects come at the subject with a proper degree of reserve – but none ever regret having taken the time to preserve their stories for the benefit of all the family both living and still to be born.


Filed under: Biographies, , , ,

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