I recently conducted a workshop for a non-profit that organizes monthly activities for its member families. It is one of my favorite events to facilitate because the stories that are shared cover a wide span of ages and experiences. I always marvel at the giggles and affectionate glances that are exchanged as the family members uncover layers of memories that deepen their family bonds.
It doesn’t really matter if a family event is comprised of seniors and their adult children, or younger parents and their kids. The experiences they share are what connects them to each other in meaningful ways. Often, they both chip in their version and memories of the same event and if you pay close attention, you will see smiles and nods around the room as the rest of the participants relate to some of the stories.
Occasionally, the parent or child will share something the other has never heard before and that turns into a very special moment. A recent experience with my son in Washington, DC reminded me of those family workshops.
Because of my background working for media, both in print and online, Joel arranged for us to visit the Newseum (News Museum), and together we touched the Berlin Wall, viewed the 911 exhibit as well as the history of comics and Newspaper Syndicates.
Joel knew this would be a home run activity that I would love. But I had no idea that one of the displays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photos that wrapped around a curved wall and filled a room with images of joy, sadness, horror and adventure would hold a memory from his childhood I had never shared with him before.
This feeling in the room was equally reverent and emotional. Every Pulitzer Prize photo both in News and Feature categories were on display, along with descriptions and the story behind the photo from the photographer; how he or she got the shot. Some of the photos were stunningly beautiful, others horrific scenes of war or disaster.
The picture that stopped me in my tracks was taken in 1987 of Baby Jessica McClure, the little girl who fell down a well in Midland, Texas.
Only a few months older than Joel, the incident happened just before his first birthday in October. I remember so clearly sitting up all night watching and praying with the nation for her rescue. And 58 hours later as she was pulled from the well, I was picking up my little boy out of his crib and holding him while he slept, grateful that he was safe and sound in my arms as she was once again in her mother’s. As I shared that story with Joel, I felt the tears again rolling down my cheeks.
Maybe Joel understands now why I always wanted to make sure he was safe growing up, by knowing who he was hanging out with and where he was. Even today, I appreciate his updates when he travels and arrives at his destination.
We experienced some amazing memories that weekend. It is something we will always have to talk about and as with the workshops, makes our family connection even stronger.