What’s Your Family Story?

26 Feb 2021

By Mira Waligora

Charlie Gracie, Donal McLaughlin and Mairi Murphy saw us through an evening of poetry and stories about family histories.

I think a good part of the references to places and events went over my head but I recognised a love and longing in the words of these authors and their stories of immigrant experiences. I’m a migrant but it’s not that part of my story that connects me the most with these authors, it’s family.

After a year where many of us have not been able to see our families, are we going to come out of this pandemic with a greater appreciation for our loved ones. Will we be more inquisitive of the stories that they have to share with us - our stories - our histories. I know I will be because ultimately I believe it’s important to know where we come from and to know our past. In some parts of the world storytelling, and passing information down generations is a sacred ritual. For me it’s been the total opposite, unanswered questions and I long for those personal histories. However families don’t exist in vacuums of love, as Charlie Grace invites us to consider “families and family events live within the shadows of larger events.” We can’t help but be shaped by the larger histories ruling our lives. Personally it’s only recently that I’ve started to think of my family’s history against the backdrop of the 1990's post communist eastern Europe.

Histories are not the only thing families share, Mairi Murphy speaks about a handwritten note she found of her fathers’. I had recently had a conversation with a friend about handwriting, wondering if it’s going to become a lost art, a craft only few know. After all we spend so much time typing, laptops for older kids are common in most schools. Yet what a beautifully personal thing handwriting is. It’s an extension of us. I could recognise my mother’s handwriting anywhere. That’s why handwritten cards and letters mean so much more.

What will we leave behind for the next generation? What memories of us will our children and grandchildren be cherishing? In this world of the digital what tangible items will our children find in our stuff and cherish as memories of their histories.

I’m no doubt going to find myself contemplating these questions about family, histories and the future for a while. The importance of connection, stories and histories. To borrow Charlie Grace’s words “the radical new futures are best made by the open hearted connections” of people and I couldn’t agree more.

If you missed (What It Means) to Overcome you can watch again with this link until 26th March.

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