Many of us congregate around the dining room table during the holidays, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Years. These are the times when families come together in the spirit of reunion and caring. We listen to Grandpa's stories about the good old days, and we watch Grandma put together that memorable recipe as no one else can.

Do we ever take the time to consider what we will be missing when they are no longer with us? A time when we no longer hear, "When I was growing up . . ." or "a pinch of salt is all it needs," or "I remember when you were just a baby . . ."

The history of who we are and where we came from resides with our elders, and it will be lost forever, unless it's captured on paper or recorded. What will the dining table conversation of the future consist of when the folklore of days past is no longer shared? Yes, we will begin to create those warm fuzzy memories for our children and grandchildren to be passed along to the next generation. But in doing so, will those people and tales of the past be forgotten?

During this holiday season, consider asking the elders around your table to jot down their memories. Or, if they are hesitant to start writing, place a small recording device in the middle of the table and capture their words in their own voices. Put a digital recorder on the kitchen counter while Grandma or Mom creates that heavenly pie—the pie whose recipe resides only in her head.

Ask these very special people what they think of today's economic uncertainties. I'm sure you'll get a history lesson beyond any you've learned in school. Talk about the politics of today and ask how things have dramatically changed over the years. Once again, you'll hear stories you never imagined possible.

Fran's Story

Of the four books I've published, the one that means the most to me is Fran's Story, The 90 Year Journey of a Kansas Farm Girl. I did not write most of this book--my mother did. This is the story of her life. She wrote it at my request about eight years before she left this world. You may never produce a book, but then again, you just might. It may be a piece that will pass from generation to generation within your family. But it is important to do it now. Once they are gone, you can never go back. Once they are gone, those stories go with them--never again to be told around the holiday table.

Even with my mother's story in print, there are times I find myself saying, "I wish I could ask Mama about. . ." She is no longer with me to answer the questions I often posed about what life was like for her when she was growing up on a Kansas farm. She's no longer here to tell me that my stuffing needs just a touch more salt or to tease me about the lumps in my gravy. It's something that hits all of us at some point in our lives and can be the source of much regret. Don't put it off until it's too late. Start preserving your family history this holiday season--you won't regret it. It could be the greatest gift you'll ever leave those who follow.

Linda Thompson is the author of Every Generation Needs a New Revolution, How Six Generations Across Nine Decades can Find Harmony and Peaceful Coexistence, Planning for Tomorrow, Your Passport to a Confident Future, a common sense approach to life planning; and A Caregiver's Journey, You Are Not Alone, a survival guide for working caregivers. To find out more about Linda's presentations, workshops, and publications, visit