John Hill always had been amazed how much his wife knew about her relatives.
In his family, truths and tales were often slow to emerge.
But then he and his four siblings started asking questions, and the stories that surfaced were scandalous, inspiring and truly entertaining.
There was a divorce between grandparents that required a six-week stay in Las Vegas, a love letter campaign with the personal physician of Chinese military leader Chiang Kai-shek and so much more.
"You can't make this stuff up," Hill said with a laugh.
Each family has a different heartbeat, a different composition, a different calling. And every member within that unit has a different story.
Some tales endure, having been told time and time again (with eye rolling from the grandkids and knowing chuckles from the siblings, of course).
But so often, memories fade, questions go unasked and stories slip away.
They don't have to.
As families gather this holiday season, moments together around a table can mean more than just gobbling Grandma's cobbler. They can be an opportunity to ask questions and learn about each other in meaningful ways — to hear legends of family past and to share aspirations for the future.
"If you are not afraid of the answers or you are not tiptoeing, it's a chance to see who someone is and get a bigger glimpse of them, a greater view of who they are," said Molly Secours, owner of Lasting Legacies Video, a production company that specializes in capturing family stories.
"It doesn't have to be digging and getting dirty family secrets. But it can be."
For Hill, catching the stories of his father, Dr. Elmore Hill — a longtime Nashville oral surgeon — was an important part of preserving his memory when he died in 2009.
Yes, for some, holiday gatherings can be dreadfully difficult or terribly dull, but, Hill said, "I think the problem is that you're not going deeper. You are intentionally staying in the shallow end, and it's boring.
"So if you dare to go deeper, you might think that was better than it's ever been. You learn something about each other."
Of course, he said, you may uncover something uncomfortable: "That's the risk, but I kind of think it's worth it."
So, in an effort to do more this holiday than just asking Uncle Joe to pass the mashed potatoes, we encourage you to help bridge generation gaps and discover something incredible.
Thanksgiving family quiz
Here are 25 questions to help get you started. Take it with you to the dinner table, and don't be afraid to record the answers. You never know when you may hear a story about hens, a shotgun and Grandpa trying to sneak Grandma home late from a date.
• Were you named after someone? Who and why?
• Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?
• What was the quirkiest trait about your first pet?
• What was the most trouble you ever got into as a kid?
INNOVATIONS AND EMOTIONS
• Did you or anyone close to you serve in a war? What do you remember of that experience?
• What was something you accomplished that we might find surprising?
• Do you remember your first contact with significant inventions such as radio, television, a computer or cell phone?
• Describe a time you were truly scared.
• Talk about a time when you literally laughed so hard you cried.
ASPIRATIONS AND AFFECTIONS
• What profession did you dream of having and why?
• Did you participate in or do you have any memories of any social justice movements such as civil rights or women's liberation?
• Describe a trinket or memento you have tucked away and what it means to you.
• What is your happy place?
• What do you do that you always said you wouldn't do?
• What haven't you done that you always said you would?
• If the house caught on fire what one thing would you take (other than a pet or a child)?
REFLECTION AND WORTH
• What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?
• How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?
• Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel were the most valuable?
• For what do you hope to be remembered?
• What do you most love about you?
• When you think of the word "joy," what do you picture from your own life?
• What has provided you the greatest satisfaction in life?
• What is something you still hope to accomplish?
• What is the one thing we should know about you?