Guest Post: “Memory Stories”

Announcing our first guest post written by Aldine Musser! Aldine attends Crossroads Mennonite Church in Timberville, VA along with her husband Jim. She comes from a background in education and church ministry, currently serving as a conference minister for part of the Northern District of Virginia Mennonite Conference. Thanks for sharing these insights with us, Aldine!


Remember when we…. shared a bedroom on the third floor of a row house in the city across the street from a noisy bar?”

There were four of us girls who shared our growing up years in this room, living with our parents and one brother in a small home that, at first, was also used as the meeting place for worship and Sunday School.

Now that we are almost old enough to retire, my sisters and I are intentionally setting aside “Sister Days”, where we share memory stories to help create and maintain our individual and shared identities. We are beginning this practice because we feel it has value in helping us understand ourselves and some of the emotions we continue to cope with in other situations.

The memories that have emerged are most often ones that made us happy, sad, or scared. Finally, as older adults, we are trying to understand and learn from the emotions we experienced as young children. Food issues, drawing, discipline, daily chores, womanhood, recipes and shame are among the memories shared from our childhood. Even in the same home with the same parents we sometimes have different perspectives and feelings on an event.

While my three young daughters were under my care, sometimes instead of reading a book I would tell a memory story of my childhood. Currently, I care for my preschool grandchildren. I started photo albums for each one, so that they can hear their own story from birth and first few years of life from Grandma’s memory.

Research by developmental psychologists shows that the way parents and others talk to young children about the past is crucial for their memory development. One of the best ways is to use what is called a “high elaborative” style. This involves prompting the child’s own contributions with open-ended questions (who, what, why, how) and expanding on and adding structure to the child’s response. Together the parent and child can then jointly tell a memory story that is rich, full, and comprehensible.

Elaborative reminiscing helps children understand and learn to navigate difficult emotions and emotional memories.

Our mother is still living and there have been times we’ve encouraged her to tell her perspective of a memory we have. At our next meeting we hope to share the feminine strengths we saw in our mother.

The author and her sisters share a meal together

From L-R: Priscilla Jutzi, Lucinda Swartzentruber, Karen Weaver, and Aldine Musser. Photo shared by the author.


Have you ever practiced telling “memory stories” as Aldine describes? How else have you worked with memories to “help create and maintain [your] identity” either as an individual or within a group? Thanks again, Aldine!

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