I would like very much to be spending time with my parents. It’s so easy to tell myself that I know them very well in the way that I’m used to thinking about them in relation to myself. But when I hear them tell a story of a part of their life before I came along, or when I was young and oblivious, I find myself thinking “who are these people?” I really hardly know them at all. Even the stories I know and experienced with them sound different to me when I hear what they were thinking or feeling. My parents are several thousand miles away, however my father’s sister and her husband, Auntie Irene and Uncle Bob, are less than 1/4 mile west of my house and it just occurred to me that they are a pretty good second choice.
Last weekend when we stopped in to see them Auntie Irene gave me copies of notes my grandmother had made. There were notes about her own children’s important events (first time to milk a cow, when they had measles, first loose tooth, etc…) and also her grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s doings and sayings. There are lots of little hand tracings. There are lots of cute things Shirley did and said because evidently I was with her a lot and somewhat favored. Going over all these notes got Auntie Irene started remembering all kinds of “stuff”. I think everyone has a tendency to think that their life is pretty ordinary and uninteresting to anyone but themselves (and frankly my life sometimes is uninteresting even to me) and Auntie Irene feels this way, but at the same time she has had an urge to write stories down, just in case.
She has to get about two inches away from the page with a magnifying glass to see what she’s written – but her printing is even and careful and her lines are straight across the page. I have no trouble reading it. She has already finished 30 pages or more and I start typing them up for her. I have to stop frequently to ask for more details. It’s fascinating. This woman, her mother, that she writes about was the grandmother that I loved all my childhood. What does a grandchild ever know about their grandparent? I certainly didn’t know her like her daughter knew her so these stories are enriching. And as we get to the stories about my father it’s getting even more interesting.
My point – we really don’t know people like we think we do. We shouldn’t pass up the chance to know them better from a different angle. What better way to study life than through your own family history. What better way to grow in love for your family than to hear stories of their ordinary, day to day life, that turns out to be rather like your own in many ways. I’m going back again this week to finish typing what she’s written so far and I’m just sayin’… it’s a good thing.