I have a slow burn project I’ve been working on for a few years: a documentary podcast about part of my family’s story during the Troubles. I’ve been going through some of the audio recently for the first time in ages.
Two years ago last month my family came together in Donegal to celebrate my eldest brother’s 40th birthday. I was 10 weeks pregnant and felt a sense of urgency to get going in earnest with the podcast project while I still could so I was also using the trip home to record interviews with family members about their memories of that time. It’s a delicate area and not a subject I had talked to most of my family about before.
After a celebratory dinner in a seaside hotel, we returned to the cottage my grandmother grew up in and gathered round the fireplace in the front room. The dinner had been six courses – the signal to call it a night was my two-year-old throwing up a mound of chips into my napkin – so everyone was well fed and lubricated by the time we got home.
I hadn’t told some of my brothers about my podcast project until earlier that day. They seemed perplexed as to why I would begin such a thing but didn’t say too much. Now, with the kids in bed, tongues loosened.
“Nobody wants to do it. Give up. This is my advice to you,” said one.
As my mother tried to mediate and explain the individual quirks and qualities of each of her children she got as far as telling me, “You have an interest in the family history,” before a brother cut her off with, “Aye, you live in the past, Megan. Why do you keep dredging all this crap up?”
Someone asked what the objective of my interviews with family members had been. “To get answers to questions,” I replied. “You always had too many questions,” came the familiar reprise.
Why am I dredging this up? I don’t take any of this stuff lightly. One of the first things I did in preparation for this project was reach out to an experienced mediator and conflict resolution specialist in Belfast to discuss the ethical considerations of a project like this.
I understand my brothers’ hesitations. I have them too. This is the most nerve-racking project I’ve ever embarked upon and I’m still not completely sure that it will ever see the light of day.
But whatever way I slice it I always come back to the same conclusion. I believe it’s an important story to tell. I believe telling our stories is a crucial part of not repeating the pain of the past and being able to move more freely into the future. I believe unearthing the story, and being able to look at it in the cold light of day, has the power to restore us to ourselves.