The idea of interviewing my Mum and Dad came off of an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, so inspiration can strike anywhere. (Also, don’t judge me, I happen to enjoy TV shows like that, I also watch Total Divas). The questions I asked will be listed at the end, which is a collaboration of questions I found off of the internet.
Oscar, clearly not interested by my questions.
I did a bit of research into the types of questions I wanted to ask, and this can be very specific to what you want the end product to be, you can go as far back as childhood questions, or keep it related more to you, your siblings, your children etc. You can ask purely philosophical questions or detail orientated about their life, place or birth, the way they were raised etc. You can do it with the intention of creating a final cut or keep the footage raw, it all depends on how much time and effort you want to put into it.
For me personally, I knew that I wasn’t going to achieve everything I wanted from it through one sit down, for a combination of reasons; wanting to ask questions that gave my parents the option to elaborate, for example, instead of asking, ”where was your childhood home?”, I would ask, ”tell me about your childhood home?”, whilst this makes the answers longer, it allows for them to talk and tell you things that might never have thought to mention. Another reasons is that my parents can ramble 🙂 I can too for a matter of fact, so going into this I knew that whilst the original question might seem simple and start forward, I could easily end up recording 20 minutes of conversation that greatly digresses from the original point, but that is more than fine. If you want to put less time into the process ask more pointed questions that give less opportunity for expansion, like I said, the process can be tailored to how you want it.
As for the experience so far it has been rewarding, I think as children (despite being fully grown) we forget that our parents life expands farther than our knowledge, that they are not just Mum or Dad, or Grandparents to our children, they are Sisters, Brothers, Aunties, Uncles, Daughters, Sons, employees and friends. Their life has been vast and whilst we think we know them so very well (original thought process: Hell, they are the centre of everything we are as people, how can we not know them?) in many ways we don’t, there will be tons of memories that you will never hear, thoughts unspoken and emotions that they have never gotten the opportunity to share. There were be little things my Mum said during her interview, as small as describing how she still has vivid memories of the women on her street, including her mother, cleaning their doorstep; how they would wash and scrub it with a brush and dry it all off before rubbing a ‘donkey stone’ on the edge of the step to finish it off, and I found myself picturing it so clearly I felt like I was there, in her childhood with her.
Another treasure I never expected from this is how much my parents relished it. When I first brought it up, they both agreed through varied non-committal grunts, when they did agree properly I came to realise that they were both under the impression I would just ask them questions and maybe write down their answers *laugh* (see above where I mention their impressive ability to ramble). So after correcting them that I would, in fact, be recording them, they returned to their non-committal grunts, but after mildly guilt tripping them, ”come on, you never even have to watch it”, ”it’s not for you, it’s for all of us”, ”I want to be able to have this to re-watch after you’re gone”, I was successful. So despite going into it with the impression that I would be pulling teeth, I was proven very quickly wrong, because once they started, they forgot the camera was there, or just became comfortable in spite of it. My Mum, after one evening of asking questions, told me that she was really enjoying the process, that it was really nice to talk and just be listened to, to talk about things she never got the chance to speak about, and because of this remember, very fondly, things that she had not thought of in decades. For them both it was a brilliant way of walking down memory lane, and remembering treasures that they had forgotten along the way, things about their parents, things they thought as teenagers, funny incidents that they once couldn’t conceive laughing about. She told me that she felt both energized but content, which was wonderful to think that something as simple as asking her a list of questions, could evoke such feelings for her.
I imagine that it may take me a couple of months to really finish this project, but I’m okay with that, it suits what I want to accomplish from this, but it really would be just as easy to have a handful of simple questions that you ask, I promise, from my experience so far, it’ll fast become one of your great memories that you would talk about if your (future) children ever interviewed you.
What year were you born? On what date? Did your parents tell you anything about the day you were born?
Where were you born?
Why were you given the first (and middle) name(s) that you have?
What’s your first, most vivid memory?
What was the apartment or house like that you grew up in? How many bedrooms did it have? Bathrooms?
What was your bedroom like?
Can you describe the neighbourhood you grew up in?
Tell me about your parents. Where were they born? When were they born? What memories do you have of them?
Who was more strict: your mother or your father? Do you have a vivid memory of something you did that you were disciplined for?
Did your parents have a good marriage?
How did your family earn money? How did your family compare to others in the neighbourhood – richer, poorer, the same?
What kinds of things did your family spend money on?
How many brothers and sisters do you have? When were they born? What memories do you have of each of them from when you were growing up?
Did you have grandparents? Where were they born? When were they born? What do you remember about them? When did they die?
Did you have any pets?
What were you like as a child? What did you like to eat? What did you do for fun? What were your favourite toys or games? Did you ever have a secret place or a favourite hiding spot? What did you wear?
Did you get an allowance? How much? Did you spend it right away, or save it? What did you buy?
What responsibilities did you have at home when you were young?
What kind of school did you go to? Were you a good student? What was your favourite subject? Least favourite? Who were your friends? Who was your favourite teacher and why?
Did you have any heroes or role models when you were a child?
How did you spend your summer holidays? What were your favourite summer activities?
Where did your family go on holiday?
How did your family celebrate holidays (e.g. Christmas, New Year, Easter, Birthdays)? Did lots of relatives get together? What traditions did you have year after year? What food was served?
What was the best gift you remember receiving as a child?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What big world events do you remember from the time you were growing up?
What inventions do you most remember?
What’s different about growing up today from when you were growing up?
When you were a teenager, what did you do for fun? Did you have a favourite spot to “hang out”? What time did you have to be home at night? Did you ever get into any trouble?
Were there any phrases that were popular when you were a teenager? What did you like to wear? How did your parents feel about the way you talked and what you wore?
When did you learn how to drive? Who taught you? What was your first car like?
Adulthood and self
What was your first job? What did you like or not like about it?
How did you meet Dad/Mum? What did you like about him/her?
How and when did you get engaged?
When did you get married? How old were you? Where did you get married? What was your wedding like?
What was the first big purchase you made with Dad/Mum?
How many children do you have? When were they born? How did you decide what to name each?
What’s your favourite story about each of your children?
What is something funny or embarrassing one of your children said at an early age that you’ll never forget?
What’s the most memorable family holiday you took?
What do you remember about holiday celebrations? Is there one holiday memory that stands out for you?
How did you feel about raising your children? What was the best part? The hardest part?
What makes you proud of your children?
How is my father/mother like me? Unlike me?
What do you remember about me when I was born? What about when I was younger than I am now?
What the best thing about being a parent? A grandparent?
Do you know the meaning of your family name? Are there stories about the origins of your family name?
Have you ever had any nicknames as a child or as an adult? Where did they come from?
How are you like your mother? Unlike her? How are you like your father? Unlike him?
What was most important to your parents?
How are your children like you? Unlike you?
What do you think are your three best qualities? Your three worst?
Do you have any special sayings or expressions?
Who are three people in history you admire most and why?
What have been the three biggest news events during your lifetime and why?
If you could travel into the future, would you rather see something that specifically relates to you, or something that relates to the future of the country in general? Why?
If you could have three wishes, what would they be?
If you won £1 million tomorrow, what would you do with the money?
What’s the most memorable phone call you’ve ever received?
What’s the best compliment you ever received?
What kinds of things bring you the most pleasure now? When you were a younger adult? A child?
What things frighten you now? What frightened you when you were a younger adult? A child?
What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?
Do you feel differently about yourself now from how you felt when you were younger? How?
What do you think has stayed the same about you throughout life? What do you think has changed?
The Present, Ageing, Life Lessons and Legacies
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? Do you enjoy any particular sports?
What do you do for fun?
Who do you trust and depend on?
What things are most important to you now? Why?
What do you remember about your 20s? 30s? 40s? 50s? 60s? What events stand out in your mind? How was each age different from the one before it?
There are some ages we don’t look forward to. What birthday were you least enthusiastic about? Why?
If you could go back to any age, which age would it be and why?
How do you feel now about growing old? What’s the hardest thing about growing older? The best thing?
What were your parents like when they got older?
Did you have any expectations at points in your life about what growing older would be like for you?
How should a person prepare for old age? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
If you live another 20-30 years, what will you do? Do you want to live another 20-30 years?
What do you look forward to now?
What’s your most cherished family tradition? Why is it important?
What have you liked best about your life so far? What’s your happiest or proudest moment?
What do you feel have been the important successes in your life? The frustrations?
What’s the most difficult thing that ever happened to you? How did you deal with it?
What do you think the turning points have been in your life? What were you like then?
Are there times of your life that you remember more vividly than others? Why?
What have been the most influential experiences in your life?
Describe a person or situation from your childhood that had a profound effect on the way you look at life.
If you were writing the story of your life, how would you divide it into chapters?
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were young?
What have you thrown away in your life that you wish you hadn’t? What have you held on to that’s
important and why is it important? What “junk” have you held on to and why?
Over time, how have you changed the way you look at life/people?
What advice did your grandparents or parents give you that you remember best?
Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice for living? If a young person came to you asking what’s the most important thing for living a good life, what would you say?
How do you define a “good life” or a “successful life”?
Do you think a person needs to first overcome serious setbacks or challenges to be truly successful?
If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
What do you see as your place or purpose in life? How did you come to that conclusion?
What would you like your children and grandchildren to remember about you?
If you could write a message to each of your children and grandchildren and put it in a time capsule for them to read 20 years from now, what would you write to each?