02 December 2011


     Because of the hectic nature of the winter holidays, family history research is often pushed aside. Shopping, decorating, wrapping, cooking and church services take center stage in our lives in the month of December. But, for many families, Christmas is the only time of the year that family members come together en masse. Don't lose the chance to steer the conversation towards reminiscing. Recalling family memories together is not only a bonding experience, but could lead to family history discoveries.
     You might consider making a game night out of the experience. In October, I had the pleasure of meeting Carol and Mary Jane McPhee at a Toronto book festival. The two sisters have created a game called "LifeTimes: The Game of Reminiscence." The game consists of 125 cards with vintage photos and 500 "Remember?" prompts that invite storytelling and conversation. Currently, the game comes in a 1950's edition, and I am hoping the sisters expand it into other decades (although perhaps many of us will want the 60's kept secret!). Most  of the prompts can be used for other time periods, as well, so even if you want to explore other decades, you can do it fairly well with the 50's set.
     Each card has a general theme for the prompts. For example, the card that contains the saying "Be home when the street lights come on" has the following prompts: "What was your family's signal for bringing the kids in?" "Try and recall a game played by the children in your neighborhood," and "What were some fears parents had for their children? Are these fears different today?"
     Carol and Mary Jane created the game to help their mother with memory loss. They wanted to develop a "positive tool" to get their mother "more relaxed and to a happy place." They soon found that the game resonated not only with their mother and other elderly persons, but with their friends and even younger generations.
     I can envision so many ways a family historian can use these cards. They are excellent writing prompts for anyone writing their memoirs or personal essays. They are also great memory jogging tools. I have often found myself stymied when interviewing family members for movies or oral histories. Some relatives close up like clams, and the questions on these cards are sure to pry some interesting stories out of them. I like reading over some of the cards in private and losing myself down memory lane.
     The game is available to order online, and can be shipped to Canada and the USA.

(Disclaimer: I am not associated in any way with LifeTimes or the McPhee sisters, nor have I received any payment or reward for this review).