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Archive for Friday, November 27, 2009

Don’t want to shop today? Try listening

November 27, 2009

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— A national oral history project is trying to start a new tradition for Black Friday. Instead of hunting for bargains, StoryCorps suggests families sit down together and talk about their lives on a National Day of Listening.

Amanda Rigell, a 30-year-old middle school teacher from Johnson City, interviewed her grandmother, who was 89 at the time, for the first National Day of Listening last year.

“She was reluctant at first,” Rigell said. “She doesn’t really talk about herself.” But then she talked for more than two and a half hours.

“She talked about her early education. She went to a tiny little school, I think there was only one other person there for a while. And she talked about drinking fresh milk from a cow. I guess that shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did,” Rigell said.

StoryCorps is a nonprofit project that seeks to preserve the stories of ordinary people. Rigell first learned about it when she heard some of those stories broadcast on public radio during her morning commute. She had already interviewed two people at StoryCorps recording booths when she and her father decided to interview her grandmother at home.

“I’m really glad we did it last year because her health has been declining,” she said. “There was a while last month when she couldn’t speak.”

Rigell said her grandmother, who lives in Campbell County near the Kentucky border, was around for all the “big events” of her childhood. Some of her fondest memories of her grandmother involve home cooked meals and “amazing” buttermilk biscuits. But there were a lot of things Rigell didn’t know about her.

Rigell recorded the interview on her computer and plans to give copies as Christmas presents.

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