Telling Your Story: The Gift of Storyworth & Passing Down Your Legacy by Charlene Torkelson


Telling Your Story: The Gift of Storyworth & Passing Down Your Legacy

I teach a weekly writing class. Last year one of my writers mentioned that her granddaughters gave her a great Christmas present: Storyworth. Every week for a year, they sent her a question about her life or ask her opinion on a topic, and she writes a page or two about that question. I found it to be a fascinating concept, so for Mother’s Day this year, I gave Storyworth to myself from my three children. I write about a topic each week for 52 weeks, and at the end of that time, each of my children (and myself) will receive a bound book with my answers.

I thought it was important for my children to find out who I was – not just as their mother, but as a person who was at one time a child, a daughter, a wife and a woman. I have written about my grandparents, my own parents, my memories of school, my favorite music, my school lunches and my most favorite simple pleasures. It has given me an opportunity to relate stories about myself that may not have come up in conversation previously. I share pictures and relate feelings I may have had or have even today.

Each Monday I receive my question. The first day I may write an introduction or even write the majority of my thoughts. Then I let it sit. The second day, I reread and rewrite. The third day I usually get some great inspiration to add and then submit my story.

Growing up, I knew my mother’s side of the family from looking through my grandmother’s picture box. I would ask questions about who this person was and who that person was. Grandma would always have some great stories to tell. My mother’s side of the family also had a very extensive family tree that all the family members received with dates and information recorded. I had a very good picture of who I was related to on that side, but I knew very little about my dad’s side.

As I get older, I wish I knew more about Dad’s family. Both of my grandparents from Dad’s side passed away before I was born. My mother did not have the opportunity to meet Dad’s parents either. Grandpa Herman was killed in 1929 right before the Depression when he and his horse team were struck by lightening while out harvesting a field. Grandma Gertrude died when Dad was 17. That is about all I know about them. I know about their death rather than their life.

I hope that Storyworth will allow my own children to know more about me. I want them to know who my parents were, who my grandparents were and what I enjoy about life – as well as some of my most uncomfortable experiences. I want them to know who I am fully as a person and not just as their mom. I want them to know that I love to dance, and I love to write. I want them to know I hate liver but love peppermint stick ice cream. I want them to know I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles – because my mom and grandma loved doing jigsaw puzzles. I want them to know what my most trying times were and about my greatest joys. I want them to appreciate my parents who proved to be shining examples for me and for my siblings.

We never know how lucky we are until as adults we meet people who didn’t have the great fortune we had growing up. That’s when I began to say thank you to my parents for who they were and how they lived their lives. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Photo courtesy of Charlene Torkelson.

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Donna John
Love this so much, Charlene Torkelson ! I am definitely going to look into this. Thanks for sharing your story. Love the family photo!
Elisa Schmitz
What a great perspective and a wonderful resource. Awesome thing to do for your family. Looking into it. Many thanks for sharing!

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