In 1965, my dad was the drummer in a Southern California band, Dave Travis and the Extremes. They recorded a 2-sided 45 rpm produced by the famous Bones Howe, and played a few gigs in Hollywood, including one at the Earl Carroll Theatre. Ultimately, my dad didn’t get along with Dave Travis, so he split from the band.
I chat with my dad weekly. I am connected with him on half a dozen social networking sites. I see him during extended visits a few times a year. But the story of Dave Travis and the Extremes never come up. How would it? Our calls focus on the grandkids and the weather, our visits are spent planning the next meal and chatting about neighbors and old friends, and social networking is not exactly a place where anybody is going to open up about their lives.
Growing up, I thought I would know everything about my parents given the time. I would know the obvious stuff, like where they were born and what their first jobs were, but also deeper stuff, like who their first crush or kiss was, who their childhood best friends was, what their favorite way to pass time was.
Well, I’m in my mid-30s, I have two children of my own, and I know shockingly little about my parents. When I ask my parents simple questions about their own parents, they don’t know the answers either.
My parents are in their late 60s, in good health mentally and emotionally, but of course they’re human and they won’t live forever. I would like to be able to answer my children’s questions someday about who they are and where they came from. And I’m not talking about census records; I’m talking about the really personal, private details that are only shared and kept within families.
Any suggestion that we need a new way to connect with people seems ridiculous. Not only are we full of them, but the ways we have are dominant and expansive. What I need is help breaking the ice with my parents about the memorable moments of their lives. I know how to chat with them about our weekend plans, but how do I ask them to talk about their best weekend ever?
Which is why we’re launching Kinecho.
Kinecho provides a way to record, share, and preserve the personal stories in our families. It helps you learn new things about your parents and grandparents, to really know them, and it preserves these stories along the way.
I didn’t know about my dad’s involvement with that band until I used Kinecho to ask him, “I know you used to be in a band, but that’s all I know. Tell me more about that.” I’ve learned so much about him in the past couple of weeks, and I’ve barely gotten started. Every so often, I remember a small detail about him, like that he used to work in a tobacco shop, or that he once tried to get high from banana peels, or that that he narrowly avoided a campus curfew enforcement during the Vietnam War, or that he built a database to store all of the swimming times of my childhood swim team in the 1980s (Go RSM Polar Bears!), and I’ll ask him to tell me more.
Not only do I get the full version of the story, but it’s preserved so that I can listen to it again any time I want. I can share it with my kids someday. I don’t know if they’ll want to listen to it, but I know wholeheartedly that I’d give anything to listen to the stories of the grandfather I never met.
I don’t get to keep my parents and grandparents forever, but I’m excited that I may be able to keep their stories and their voices. Not just for me, but for my kids and their kids, too.