Preserving the Past Through Pieces of Your Life

Collecting Memories for future generations

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at a senior center. It was a typical “author talk” about my writing career and books, but I spent considerable time sharing how my novel, Let Us Begin, was born.

Let Us Begin was inspired by true events in my parents’ lives. But the way that I learned about these events was by reading letters that my father wrote to my grandfather and his responses back. My grandfather had the foresight to save these letters. Perhaps it was because these letters were his only connection to his youngest son, who left Argentina as a twenty-two-year-old man to live in the United States. Maybe he planned to give these letters to my father one day to remind him of his adventure. Who knows? After my grandfather died, the letters remained in a thick notebook that my grandmother stored in a closet.

Little did my grandfather know that I would be the one to read the letters with fascination and that he would be introducing me to a younger version of my father and to him. Since I was a baby when my grandfather died, these letters were a way to meet him. My grandfather was a kind and wise man. He loved his children and his wife. He encouraged his son to be a man and always to do the right thing. I wish I’d gotten to know him while he was alive, but at least through his letters, I learned who he was.

Most important for me as a writer, he offered me the gift of a story. Within these letters was the story of a young man who desperately wanted to succeed and who left everything he knew and loved in his country to find the American Dream.

My talk today at the senior center focused on the importance of chronicling our lives and leaving pieces of ourselves to future generations.

What tells our stories?

Yes, the obvious diaries and journals do. Memoirs too, of course. But not everyone wants to be a writer or enjoys writing, and that’s okay.

What the letters provided me were snapshots in time of my father and grandfather. I got to see what was important to them: their beliefs, their dreams, their relationship. I learned a little bit about history. I found out what car models were…