A day with the Fam

by stronged

I have spent the day spending time with my family. So I figured, why not ask them a couple of questions whilst I’m at it?

First was Nan. She is currently situated in a nursing home and is experiencing that difficult stage where she is no longer capable of physically looking after herself at home. Every member of the family who visits her gets the same pleading: “Why wont you take me home?”

So when it came to the particularly pertinent question about her favourite place I should have predicted she would nominate her home. It was an interesting experience because we were tackling the topic from a different angle, so I thankfully did not trigger a beseeching tirade.

I was looking forward to interviewing Nan because she is a great storyteller. However, it was a big ask to have her dig deep for descriptions and associations that she has never formulated before. She is no longer the Nan I hold in my memory.

Throughout the interview we were interrupted by orderlies and my brother trying to call my mobile (the device that I was using to make the recording). I did not realise the DropVox app does not disable incoming call interruptions, etc. when in the process of recording. This was quite annoying.

Next stop was my brother Harry and his wife Tash’s house. My father and his wife Maria were also joining in the festivities of a family Birthday celebration for Maria and to welcome in Easter. It was my niece Lilia’s first Easter Egg Hunt, so this was a special day to witness.

I interviewed Harry first. He found the process quite difficult, being put on the spot to produce a range of descriptions and associations he has with the particular topics was difficult. In hindsight, he explained he is not used to articulating his sensations or experiences in such a way. He didn’t feel his vocabulary was sufficient. When it came to filming him though, he was the most unselfconscious participant. Open and welcome for me to act as ‘fly-on-the-wall’ as he went about his tasks.

Next was my father. He excelled with the first question. I think having this division from his intimate life allowed him a safe ground to list a myriad of associations he has with water. When it came to the third question though, he simply could not remember this occasion. I pressed him about it, asking him whether he can remember the earliest time he had a kiss. Still no luck. So I posed a hypothetical, asking for him to detail the qualities of a ‘good kiss.’ This was interesting but he still held back from responding to a great extent.

I soon discovered a new problem with my questioning when it came to Maria’s turn. She associated the second question with the first, joining her favourite place with her experiences of water. I explained that it is a completely separate question, ‘water aside’, but this did not have much of an effect.

I was flummoxed with her answers for the first question. All of the associations she made were connected to other people, not herself. This was either her being incredibly private/evasive or genuinely exhibiting the selfless type of individual she is. A giving person who is thinking about the bigger picture rather than the basic connection she herself has with the object water.

When it came to question three she reacted similarly to my father’s response, imploring that she could not remember.

Finally I managed to steal Tash away from her duties as mother and hostess. I instinctually felt she would connect with the questions easily and provide some great material. I was not wrong. However, I do not believe I captured enough video of her. As most people claim, the camera is quite intrusive. I did not want to push the envelope so backed off. This may prove to be problematic in the edit, not having enough cutaways to handle the limited footage of the respondents. I’ll cross this road when I come to it.

I thought it would be easiest interviewing my family. After all, you can rely on family to forgive you the next day if you make a boo-boo and offend them. This may very well be the case, and I pride myself on having such a lovely, understanding family. However, every family has it’s own baggage to deal with. Complex relationships that have more than a few skeletons in the closet. Added to this, my family is incredibly analytical. They are very careful and highly critical people. This proves to be a useful characteristic in many different fields, but not for interviewing purposes. They nit-picked my questions and were even skeptical of the consent forms. I also felt they had selected hearing when it came to how I requested they lead their answers in with a ‘header’ (i.e. “Water to me is…”).

I had to resign myself to the fact that I would not be able to convey the project in its entirety and to not push them to list more in their ontograph.

Again, as with my friends, I will find out how it’ll come together in the edit. I do not feel at all confident with this material though…

My reasoning for asking each respondent three very separate questions is somewhat of a contingency plan. If one question does not provide the necessary material needed for a complete package for korsakow, I will give one of the other questions a go. Best case scenario is that all three questions prove to be fruitful.