I recently had the pleasure of visiting my 80-year-old Aunt Mari. She’s my dad’s sister and the only woman left from the generation before me.
Growing up, Aunt Mari and I didn’t have the opportunity to spend much time together. Anything I knew about her was taken from what was said during my occasional visits to my paternal grandma’s house. So, hearing stories from Aunt Mari’s perspective was a real treat. She told me known stories from her perspective and stories that I never heard before. For example:
- I knew our family were early US settlers; but I didn’t know that the first documented baby born in Rhode Island in the 1600s was from our family.
- I knew my Grandma married my Grandpa in her late 20s, late for that time period; but I didn’t know that she was engaged to a Frenchman before meeting my Grandpa. Such a missed opportunity to not get to hear that story from my Grandma. What happened between her and the Frenchman? I’ll never know.
- I knew my Grandpa moved from Georgia to New Jersey as a boy; but I didn’t know that at 21 he worked as a freight man on an overseas ship to help his family during the Great Depression. Aunt Mari pointed out the hope chest sitting in her living room. “He had the wherewithal to bring that home from China. Your dad and I often got in trouble for going through it and playing with things stored in it when we were kids.” She snickered as she reminisced.
- I knew my Grandma lived to be 90, but I didn’t know that her brother and two sisters also lived to be in their 90s. The third sister only lived to be 86, presumably because she was a smoker.
One of life’s hidden treasures is having the opportunity to spend time and talk to the generations before us. That conversation with Aunt Mari brought the past back to life for a moment. I felt joy, gratitude and an understanding that we ALL have a story. It had me wishing there were more older relatives around that I could talk to and longing for the lost opportunities I had when I was younger.
Family and older relatives are our link to our ancestors. Learn from them, treasure their experiences and discover your roots. Take their stories and pass them down to younger generations.
My mom was an aspiring writer and a great story teller. I took a lot of her stories for granted because I heard them so many times. As I was going through her belongings after she passed away, I found that she wrote down many of those stories. Stories as simple as a picture of a woman with a pick walking through a field and how as a little girl she would stare at it and wonder who the woman was and where she was going. The older generation is a personal treasure and sometimes we don’t realize it until they are gone and all that’s left are their stories.
If you still have older relatives be sure to talk to them. Let them tell you their story. It’s a piece of your history that you may not otherwise know.
If you are of an older generation talk to the younger generations. Your story is important. Let your stories live on for generations to come.
Tell me this: Do you have stories passed down from previous generations?