My writing group is putting together a book of memories related to Camden. Some people are contributing holiday memories, and others are sharing nostalgic tales germane to the Kershaw and Lee County areas. If all goes according to plan, the book will be a grand collection of poems, stories, recipes, drawings, and photographs. We hope to illustrate the power of the past in shaping people’s lives.
I’ve submitted a couple of pieces to be critiqued at our meeting tonight, one a boy-meets-girl love story and the other a narrative of selected events from my aunt’s life as she went from being a city girl to a farm woman with six children. In the love story, I had the privilege of actually talking to the girl, now a woman approaching her 90th birthday. In the second instance, I had a manuscript written by my aunt.
What a blessing for my aunt’s children! And for me too. And for everyone who’ll be reading this account of her early years. One afternoon as I reread sections of my aunt’s narrative, I had just returned from Wal-Mart where I’d picked up a few grocery items. In Aunt Polly’s manuscript, she wrote of a sweltering July day when she had been to the grocery store wearing hose and two-inch heels! That was the norm during the early 1950’s.
Next week I’m going to sit down with my mother-in-law and ask her to share some Christmas memories. What did kids get for Christmas in 1930? How and where did they get their Christmas tree in the days before Lowe’s? What types of decorations did they use, and what kinds of gifts did Santa leave?
But here’s the thing. I have nothing to contribute about my own mother’s life as a young person. No memories from her childhood. Nada. She left no journal, no manuscript with goings-on of her early life. I could use one of my own holiday memories and include one of her recipes, but that’s not quite the same thing. She kept baby books for all of her four children, and I could probably glean some gems from them. That’s a possibility.
Where am I going with this? Every person reading this should begin working now on a family history of sorts, even if it’s just to say, “Saw some kids playing in the surf today,” or “Brooke hoped to find a dead animal on the family scavenger hunt.” Seriously, I’m saddened by the fact that I’ll be writing about other women who have been influential in my life, but the most important of them didn’t share her stories. I want to give her top billing, but I’ve got to figure out how to do it.
What about you? Have you started writing a family history? Do you keep a journal? There are so many tips and tutorials about how to do it (journaling) that we really have no excuse. Here’s the sentence that awakened me: “You are the ancestor to people not yet born. How will they remember you?” (Alex Chediak)
Good question. How will your descendants remember you?