Truly great ideas leave a real mark – the one that occurs when you smack yourself upside the head while wondering: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Take this family history project from my friend Helen that is simplicity itself. She calls it her “Family Rules Project.”
Many families have the sort of rules she means. They’re the commandments of everyday life passed on by the elders, often when the elders are trying to get the kids out of their hair. They cover such basics as what constitutes fair play, when to take your hat off and who gets the last chip in the bag.
The foundations of civilization, in other words.
Helen came up with a funny and often touching compilation by canvassing her extended family. She grouped the results in categories such as “Observations,” “Tips,” and “Health and Safety.”
Some examples of her clan’s ancestral wisdom:
If your mother is watching, wear a helmet.
Remove the Plumpy the Plumtree card from the Candyland game. No one likes to go back that far. (Ed. Note: True, too true.)
Cook enough + some. You never know who will stop by.
Little kids never strike out and always make it to base.
“For the love of Mike,” “For Pete’s sake,” and “Son of a gun”are acceptable alternatives to swear words in exasperating situations.
When she had a good bunch of these sayings, Helen sent them around again, including a final sheet tacked on to the end with blank spaces for everyone to write down favorite sayings that might have been forgotten.
It’s a simple and yet powerful idea, awakening shared memories and humor in a direct, creative way. It would work wonderfully in partnership with vintage family photos, but the words themselves are vivid enough to stand on their own. Helen is busy packaging her research into a book to distribute to family members. I can’t think of a nicer keepsake gift for the holidays.
What were your family’s rules to live by?