I have always struggled with coming up with gifts for my mom on Mother's Day. I completely adore her, but I never know what to get her to show that. Luckily, she is gracious and usually fine with a card or a hug. Maybe this year, I will give her the greatest gift...
In college I had an assignment to conduct a life history interview of someone who inspired me. I picked my favorite teacher in high school. I spent three hours with her (and an old-school iPod) just listening to story upon story of her experience growing up in Germany during WWII. I was completely blown away by how interesting someone’s life’s story could be. After that assignment I realized I could have this great moment of connection and learning with anyone who would agree to sit down to be interviewed. I started with my Grandma, who had been diagnosed with cancer, and it completely shifted my relationship with her. She had always been the mythical creature of a Grandparent- kind, loving, fun- but lacking a backstory (I realized, I had never asked). During the interview I had the chance to pose questions about her childhood, old friends, her successes and failures, her marriage, and her children (including my mom). I got let into secrets I would have never known. I think she got to get a few things off her shoulders that she may not have imagined sharing. That day, our relationship changed--it deepened. I realized I had never taken time to really see her outside of her role as Grandma, until then. I am so glad I had those hours with her, and heard all those stories before she passed away the next year. During the whole interview my Grandpa kept finding excuses to shuffle by to stick his head in the room. I'm not sure if he was desperate to hear what she was saying or a little envious that she was getting the spotlight (later he asked when he would get his turn). It was in that moment that I discovered "the greatest gift". Really sitting with someone, asking, and listening to them is the greatest gift. It is a gift for them and a gift for yourself.
This year seems like the year. We are all spending more time at home, breaking old patterns, seeing more of each other. Maybe it's the year you give your Mom or loved one an oral history interview for Mother's Day.
Here are some links to help you prepare: