Over the holidays, try talking to your relatives like an anthropologist

How is it possible to spend so much time with your parents and grandparents and not really know them?

This question has puzzled me as an anthropologist. It’s especially relevant for the holiday season, when millions of people travel to spend time with their families.

When my parents were alive, I traveled long distances to be with them. We had the usual conversations: what the kids were doing, how the job was going, aches and pains. It wasn’t until after my parents died, though, that I wondered whether I really knew them in a deep, rich and nuanced way. And I realized that I’d never asked them about the formative periods of their lives, their childhoods and teenage years.

What had I missed? How had this happened?

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