Thursday, June 9, 2016

When You Realize Time is Finite

Well, at least your time is. When I was a little girl, I used to sit by my grandfather in the warm summer afternoons listening to the radio. If I was lucky, he'd pull out his pocket watch, take his knife, and flip open the back. There were all the fabulous gears, clicking back and forth. Better yet were the tiny jewels sparkling in the sunlight that streamed across the room. "It keeps perfect time," he'd say. Time was important to him - he was a railroad man and those trains had schedules to meet. If I were luckier still, when I begged for a story, he'd tell me one. There was nothing I liked better than hearing his stories, unless it was listening to my grandmother's.

Lately, I've become aware of a different schedule, one for stories, I've been digging around to fill in the blanks in family histories and I've discovered a great resource in the google books project. Much as this open book project worries writers that their work will be e-published without compensation, the books I've found are from the late 1800s and they contain information on my far removed ancestors that I've not discovered in any other place. The reason? Someone took the time to interview living people and write down their stories. Those living people are now long dead, but these collections and transcriptions contain many interesting stories - embellished or not - and connections to ancestors I couldn't make on my own.

My take away from this is that I need to be writing down my own memories, the stories I was told by my parents and grandparents, and collecting stories from my still living cousins, aunts, and siblings. We have the information in our heads that our grand-children and great grand-children may want someday. So I've started a new project - writing a family story per day. These are either ones that I've discovered (these date to the time of the earliest European settlements in North America) or ones that I remember - which are from a bit later time period :) I'm not sure these snippets will become anything publishable yet, but they may.

I wish, when I was studying history, that I'd known how many of my own ancestors were represented in the dry paragraphs in the very thick, and dry, history book. I liked history, but it didn't seem personal then. It does now. And my own memories have an expiration date - sometime. Maybe you have to reach a certain age to feel the reality of history as life. I'm there. Or maybe, if you read great historical fiction, you can achieve the same realization as a child or young adult. What historical fiction books gave you the feeling that history was, in fact, about living, feeling people that you cared about? Comments please. . .

7 comments:

  1. Great idea. As my father nears the end of his life, we are trying to record some of his stories. But we should have done it earlier, when he had more energy and better focus. Don't wait until it's too late to capture those memories! Whether or not they're publishable for a general market, your family will appreciate it. And with self-publishing today, you can put together a nice printed book that interested people can buy at cost. Also, your descendants and future historians will have the records.

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  2. Chris, one opportunity I missed. My father didn't remember his mother because she died when he was so young, but he had an older brother who did. I didn't know my uncle well and I was always planning to ask about her - but he died before I did it. There's no time like NOW.

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  3. My mother in law is 94, and her memory has failed, but my sister in law was smart enough to give her a fill-in-the-blank book long ago, in which she recounted her story, adding pictures and documents. It makes for fascinating reading. I agree that your memories, like my MIL's, may never reach a wide audience, but they are important. Good for you for starting this project. I should start thinking about doing the same.

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    1. I was about to urge you, "YES -do it now," when to my shame I recall my son urging me years ago to write my memories. Have I done so? Nooo.
      Journals, diaries - I'd better start digging them out.

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  4. Family stories are made to be shared.

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    1. Oh, yeah - the ones about me I'd rather my family had kept quiet about! :)
      But they are - and we'd best do so before it is too late.

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