Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Stories They Never Told

I come from a long line of non-storytellers. I don't know if the stories weren't there or if, perhaps, telling the stories would have revealed more than the non-storytellers wanted others to know. Maybe they just left the past in the past. For whatever reason, it means I don't really have many second-hand memories that were given to me in the first person by any of my direct-line ancestors.

I remember one sort-of story my mom told about her childhood. Her mother gave her a 50¢ piece to go to the store to buy bread and milk. She dropped the coin in the snow and couldn't find it. End of story.
So I asked, "What did you do?"
"I went home," she said.
"What happened when you got home?"
"Nothing."

Absolutely end of story. Did her mom give her more money and she had to go back to the store? Did her mom send a sister to help look for the coin? What did they do without the bread and milk? She would reveal nothing more. Maybe she forgot. Or maybe something unpleasant happened. I don't know and probably never will.

I know little about my grandparents other than my own memories of them. Gramma never spoke about her own childhood or her parents, said nothing about her growing up years. We have lovely childhood portraits of her, but no second-hand memories. Grampa, when asked questions about his family, was very quick to tell the questioner, "Ask Aunt Mina," one of his older siblings.

My father was even less forthcoming than my mother, if that's possible. His parents were both gone before he turned 21; I didn't know their names till I was a teenager. Certainly there would have been lots of interesting experiences growing up on a farm! He shared nothing about his dad or his grandparents, nor about his aunts. What I know about his childhood comes from his half-sister and an aunt.

It's sad to realize that I know so little about the personalities and attributes of ancestors who lived just two or three generations ago. They are completely unknown to me except through what I discover in documents and newspapers.

More than anything else I think sharing memories about a person and telling stories about events brings the individual and the time period to life. I often share my first-hand memories with my daughters. Occasionally one of my daughters will say, "Tell the story about...." I hope you share your memories and tell stories, too!

--Nancy.
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8 comments:

  1. I truly shouldn't have laughed - but you did such a wonderful job with your mother's "story". And you are, of course, right about the greater point. Nice, nice post!

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  2. I'm glad my mom's non-story brought you a chuckle, Susan. I can laugh about it even though I wish she'd shared more. Thanks for coming to visit and for the compliment.

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  3. That would be frustrating - not getting any stories at all.

    We don't have that problem in my family. The older ones were happy to share stories - just not all of them - and at family reunions, by the time you visited all the tables, you might have heard three or four different versions of the same story...

    Which can be frustrating, too.

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  4. Great story about your mother and the snow. very frustrating to hear though, i imagine. my family were talkers so I got lots of stories but two of my grandparents, one on each side, were very close mouthed about their familes, although they did each tell a few stories about their childhood. I agree, tell the stories!

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  5. LOL - we must be related, because that's the kind of stories I get from my parents, too!

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  6. i see i share the same predicament with many people. not a comforting thought, but at least, i won't take this too personally as i often found my parents stubborn in their silence,
    especially my dad...

    the oral tradition is the oldest in the world and that was the beginning of our history as a species. now, in this digital age, we like to record everything, which will probably help future generations, hopefully. that they may not suffer the silence we did!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  7. I don't have any stories for my fathers side either. Not from family members anyway. And just a few vague ones on my maternal side.
    I sure wish I did though!

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  8. I keep getting comments in chinese about this thread.

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