Stories are our Legacy

Thirty years ago when I began hunting up my family genealogy I learned that the begats were not enough to interest my children  - you have to have the stories or the flesh will not go back on the bones. Often times, the stories you want are already buried and you can't get to them. The sad truth is that one death can close a library of important family stories.

I realized I had to switch my tactics and find and create stories to go with the names and dates I had collected or they would rot in a box.  I was determined to tell stories about their family to my children so I became a storyteller. 

My stories come from family history and peronal experience - you know - the kind of stories we used to tell around the dinner table. That's how I learned about my family and its history. Nothing in the history books - just the clues to who I was and where I came from. The clues to why things were the way they were in my family - not always happy, or t.v.- like. They are the real story of the mistakes and successes of the people I loved.  We shared stories of the characters in our family and the town where we lived and sometimes those stories were sad, sometimes angry but mostly funny. Funnier as you look back on them.  Most important, when someone died we talked about them and kept their stories alive.

 As I turned my memories into stories I realized what I truly missed about that old dinner table was the chance to hear and tell the stories of our yesterdays and our todays - 
so, these days, I tell them in the family when we gather - and whenever I get a chance and I tell them to strangers -- strangers who nod their heads and come to me later to tell me a story of their own that connects with mine. 
In the moment of that connection - we know each other - as though we have shared a meal. 
"your story is your legacy".  
I talked about it for TEDx recently.

It is important to tell your family about you and your life and how you got to be who you are. Because who you are is part of who the younger ones in your family are and will be.

When I hit rough spots I am glad I have pieced together the stories of the women in my family because they are all survivors. They survived heartache, financial troubles, loss of children and husbands - young and old.  One husband was shot in a senseless robbery and his wife went on to raise six children in a time where there were no pensions or workman's comp - just hard work. I knew this valiant woman, my great aunt, who always stood tall and never lost her faith as she faced into the wind.

And then there are the stories shared around the table, mixed with laughter and love and memories of those who have gone. As well as telling of how things were 10, 20. 30 or more years ago so that our children today understand us better when we lament the demise of the fountain pen or the silence of touch screens - - I for one miss the clatter of my typewriter keys.
What are you telling your family about?

No comments: