When you lose the family archivist

The TV show Blue Bloods (on hiatus now) shows the rare family that functions well. Each episode ends with the many generations of Ryans gathered for Sunday supper, discussing the week’s events. They laugh and tease and share stories of family members absent from the table but present in memory.  For the many people who live with huge gaps in generational memory, the fictional Ryans are a figment of romantic imagination.

Losing the family archivist often heightens curiosity about the secrets that died with the record keeper. What was gained, we wonder, by altering the family history or simply refusing to tell it—ever? Adult orphans sometimes struggle with shadow worlds: the woman who feels she grew up in a family she didn’t really belong to; the shameful secrets one generation keeps from another. These stories make good plots for novels but often it’s the stuff of real life.

How will you tell your family story?

 

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