Don’t let this happen to you: at your parents’
funerals, one of your relations says, "It’s too
bad we didn’t record them. It would have been so
easy to do. Now they’re gone forever!"
There are many reasons for recording a life
history with your parents, but two are paramount:
there is so much you don’t know about them… and
it’s the best way to keep your memories alive.
There is, moreover, something soothing about
turning on a tape recorder and hearing the
much loved, familiar voices telling some stories
you know… and some you’re hearing for the
Here are some tips which will help you achieve
the very best results when you do this important
1) Don’t wait
The worst thing in the world is saying "I could
so easily have done this." Instead of lamenting
a lost opportunity, proceed now, this very day.
There is nothing to be gained by waiting.
2) Schedule a meeting with your parents now.
Treat this event with the planning and importance
it deserves. Schedule a planning meeting.
If you live a good distance away from your
parents, you may have to schedule months
ahead. If so, do as much as you can by
telephone or webcam. Don’t put things off
just because one or both parents are not readily
3) Start brain storming the questions you want to
cover in your interview.
You should come up with significant questions;
your parents should do the same. As coordinator
of this project, take it upon yourself to gather all
this material together. Understand that simply sitting
down with your parents and a tape recorder and
"winging it" produces results which cannot be entirely
Your questions should cover all factual information
(birth place, birth date, name of parents, number
of siblings, date of marriage, etc.) as well as
open-ended queries of the "what attracted you to each
4) Select a good, quiet spot where you can
do the recording.
Everyone should be as comfortable as possible.
Make sure you have a pad of paper and pen for
yourself and the ‘rents as an aide memoir. And
be sure to have a pitcher of water at hand, nothing
5) Do a short test.
For best results, do a test. Introduce yourself,
have your parents introduce themselves. Note:
it is advisable, if possible, to do three recordings:
one with each parent individually; a third with
6) Keep tapes to 60 minutes each.
Do not try to include everything in just one tape. It
will make the tape seemed rushed, which is just
what you don’t want. Instead, plan on at least 2
hours, about the length of a television documentary.
Divide the time into sections including early
years, education, marriage and children, career,
and a general free-flowing section about whatever
your subjects want to record.
7) Before taping, write an introduction
Remember, you know the subjects, so do your
siblings. But your children won’t know them
very well and their children hardly at all. Thus,
a good informative introduction is necessary
with complete names, including yours.
8) Take some pictures of your interview.
The more personal and appealing you can
make the final result, the better. Remember,
all photos must be dated and the names of
the participants carefully printed on the back.
This is a must.
9) Make copies of the final result and
send to siblings, etc.
Of course you did all the work. That’s the
kind of person you are. So do the packing and
shipping too. Your relatives will be glad to have the
tapes and hopefully recognize the hard work, deliberation
and careful planning you put in. But don’t count on it!
10) Listen to your tapes when you want to
spend some time with your parents.
The special tapes you’ve created should
not be put in a drawer, never to be taken
out. The great thing about tapes, no matter
how far they fall below Hollywood production
standards, is that they bring your loved ones
to life, whenever you like. Play them, enjoy
them, shed a tear, hoist a glass. These are
your near and dear ones… and by listening
to the tapes, you bring them back.
About The Author
Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of
Worldprofit, Inc., www.worldprofit.com where
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