I heard it only takes 2 generations to become completely forgotten.
Here I sit in my favorite chair, by the window, warm, as the snow drifts to its final perch. The cardinal is huddled under the leaves of the camellia digesting the rich corn protein from my feeder.
I drifted not to slumber but to a time I ‘formember’. At nearly 3 score, 2 lustrums and some months ago, it seems like only yesterday I sat off the side of the adults as my grandpa related stories told to him by civil war veterans. My grandmother said she was the first of 12 children to go to college and she taught in a one room school, all grades. Grandpa related how he was readying to sell out and move from Maine to Florida as a 40-year-old. As he continued his montage of travels, he and his brothers were only months from selling out again to move to Brazil to log precious woods seldom seen here.
Grandma said she wasn’t leaving her children and grandpa continued to build his empire of a tool shop, a tiny orange grove and story times like this one I drifted to now. He bought a piper airplane, learned to fly and never took me for a ride.
Grandma read the Round Robin to me once a year. Her 11 siblings would write a year’s worth of family news, add it, then send it (before the month’s end) along with the proceeding letters to the next sibling until the Round Robin got back to the 12th child in December. Between Round Robins, Grandma made vinegar candy, and wrote letters to all points of the globe to glean tidbits of information for the family tree she was rebuilding for her husband’s side of the family. Each day as I walked from the bus stop to our home next door, I would stop for the day’s letter reading or maybe even some of that candy.
Grandma was gentle and kind, grandpa was gruff and boisterous. I lived in their world and understood who I was and how my life evolved to this juncture in my life when I listened to them recount, “How it was”.
Summers were the most fun. Grandpa mellowed as it came to canning season. Grandma was always the accommodating soul and the organizer. First there were grapes. All the cousins and parents pitched in. We picked the small vineyard behind our grandparent’s house. The women washed and cooked the grapes, while the men boiled the jars for jelly in cast iron pots.
Next were the tomatoes. We went to the commercial field after harvest and loaded Dad’s truck level with loose tomatoes.
The large cast iron pots now cooked the tomatoes outdoors on a wood fire. Oodles and oodles of canned tomatoes were always divided among the four families living on the same road.
My favorite was the guavas! Uncle Jacob had a secret place in the wild that you could smell the ripe guavas when you got out of the truck. All the adults and all the kids filled the short step-side pickup level full to start the final canning process of the year, again. While the guavas cooked outdoors in the same cast iron pots, the neighbors didn’t have to guess what was going on at our grandparent’s house. You could smell cooking guavas for a ½ mile away.
Suddenly, it dawned on me as the sun peaked through the clouds and illuminated the room, that these fond memories were going to just fade away when I was gone. The reason was simple, oral history has to be told repeatedly and accurately to bridge the gap from one generation to another!
As the room brightened, I realized, I was the only one left that could recount these stories for our family. The stories are their inheritance, their legacy, that is the very essence of each of my children and grandchildren’s existence… after-all, I know my voice is time sensitive.
I came to this chair to doze after my oldest daughter called and asked if I would come next summer to teach her and her children “how to can” fruit and vegetables. I couldn’t sleep, so I went to the computer.
I found this website www.legacytoo.com when I searched for oral legacy. LegacyToo.com allows me to record my story, then, they will store it in the cloud for my great great grandchildren yet to be born! Thanks for making my cherished memories, my legacy in perpetuity. My family say they are enjoying it so much, NOW, because they have listened and can still ask me questions about the story that I can expound upon!
It dawned on me that it is my station in life to tell my oral stories so they will be preserved for my children and grandchildren and not erased through the passage of time. Now these stories are their stories, and part of their heritage. I started by sending ‘Voicelettes’ to all my grandchildren to let them know I was recording my life story. My oral legacy has become my living testimony.