Who Keeps the Memories in Your Family?

mary-baby-jesus1Who is the memory keeper in your family? When I was growing up, there was always an aunt or uncle who would wander into what I termed, “ancient history” the minute something activated some bit of family history in their mind. Now that I’m old enough to have acquired some history of my own, I wish I had paid more attention to all of their stories.

I didn’t realize it until I had a conversation with my older son but I am the memory keeper in my family. While many might doze when my mother started relating bygone events, I liked the stories. I didn’t think of it as a ‘job’ but a frequent interlude where I learned a little bit more about where I came from and how I came to be.

My older son seems to be of much the same mind set as we recently had an extended conversation about events he remembered from his growing up as well as many of the stories from my mother that I passed on over the years. At one point in the conversation, he exclaimed, “Mom! You are keeping our family history alive! You just told me a tiny bit of a memory your mother had and passed down to you. Now, I have the memory to share with someone, some day, and my great-grandfather won’t be forgotten.”

I remember a nephew calling me, years ago, because he was writing an essay for school about his grandparents . . . and he didn’t know a thing about them. Not a word had been passed down to him from his parents and he was at a complete loss. I found it sad and realized that whatever he ended up writing for his school paper was only going to be remembered for the duration of the required essay and not consider the history of his family.

This lack of interest is also evidenced in my immediate family. Although I have related many of my mother’s stories and adventures growing up, my older son is the only one who listened past the telling and kept them in his heart.

No one physically lives forever but it seems a shame that how they lived and what they experienced should be lost when they die. It is kind of like their memory fading from mind all too soon. As my son pointed out to me, my mother’s tiny memory of her father who died when she was very young was really all she had of him. I don’t know if she realized the importance of sharing that with me but it was exciting for my grown-up son as he said it is a moment in the family that has been given in trust to him to, one day, share with his own family . . . so they will know something of their great, great grandfather.

Remembering World War I – The Aftermath . . .

Remembering World War I - The Aftermath . . .

I had a stake in World War I although I was born long after World War II. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a German soldier in World War I. Early in the conflict, he took a bullet in the lung and received no medical care while incarcerated in a French prison. After the war, which he managed to survive, his health was seriously impaired and he was in a medical facility which dealt with such cases. My grandmother, doing her part for the returning soldiers, was working there and so they met. They married and had two daughters, one of which died at birth and the other one was my mother.

My grandfather died while my mother was still very young. Her only memory was of a tall, pale man who rescued her from a school of tiny fish that were tickling her toes while wading in the sea. She was raised by her mother and they lived on the small pension left by her father’s military duty.

I never thought too much about this until my older son started asking questions about his relatives especially the German side of the family. He was a bit sad that the only memory my mother had of her father was so small and seemingly insignificant. He told me that when all memories of people are forgotten, they are forgotten on this earth and that is tragic as we are each a part of the living still. He said memories have to be cherished and passed on so they don’t die. He was very happy to have this small bit of his great grandfather now in his memory bank. Then he asked me what his great grandfather’s name was and for the life of me, I didn’t know nor remembered my mother saying it. I dragged out dusty boxes of photos, old black and white ones dated before World War II of my mother’s life growing up in German. Unfortunately, there was little notation on the backs of them but then I found a picture of a young girl that looked a lot like me at that age and there was writing on the back of the photo.

“Ingeborg Teichmann at the grave of her Father, Walter R. Teichmann in Marbach, District Nossen/Saxony” 1936

We now had a name, a picture, and a memory. Memories are how we come to be and when you lose your past, it takes away from your future.

Feast of Corpus Christi

Today, Sunday, June 22, 2014, is also the Feast Day of Corpus Christi. The feast day is considered a moveable feast in that it depends on the date of Easter Sunday. Corpus Christ is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Trinity Sunday falls one week after Pentecost Sunday which make the day, this past Thursday, June 19, 2014. The dioceses of the United States, however, transferred the feast day to the closest Sunday which has the feast day celebrated today, June 22, 2014.

When I was growing up, Corpus Christi was one of the first feast days of the summer. It was celebrated on Thursday and provided an air of excitement to the day because Mass was celebrated at seven in the evening.

During the day, many young people, now on summer break, showed up at the church early in the day to help in any way needed to prepare for the Mass. It was not only a Mass but a procession and Benediction at three altars in the course of the celebration. The wall of the garden shed back of the church was transformed into a beautiful altar with satin fabrics draped down the rough planks of the wall and a hall table turned into a reverent altar. One year, one of the men thought it would be better to bank the shed wall with daisies but after snapping several off their stems in stapling them to the wall, he decided the women could continue with the draping of beautiful cloth.

The second altar was a walk down to the back of the church lot along a gravel path that led to a Marian grotto. What better place to celebrate our Lord than within site of His Blessed Mother.

Thirty minutes before the schedule times, people gathered to line up the procession and make sure everything was in place and ready. In those days, it was considered a celebration that required everyone to show up in their Sunday best. All the First Communicants from the last few months wore their white dresses and suits, the Knights of Columbus showed up, and the choir did a last-minute run through the musical liturgy for the event.

You could feel the excitement building as the procession started lining up. No one was there that didn’t want to be there. There is so much talk about ‘building community’ these days yet a church feast day provided that without forced contemplation. The scent of rose petals grew stronger as many feet walked over the flowers dropped by the little girls in their white dresses.

The last Benediction took place at the church altar. Father gave a brief homily and Mass began. The choir’s hard work send beautiful music throughout the church. Not a person was worried about the late hour as this was a celebration to be savored not something to be endured.

“I place before your eyes this Table where we communicate together, and the figures of my salvation which I consecrate with the same mouth with which I present a request to you, this sacrament which raises us to heaven.”  St. Gregory of Nazianzen: Orations, (4th century)

The Ghost of You – Song in Honor of D-Day and Our Fallen Soldiers

I never said I’d lie in wait forever
If I died we’d be together
I can’t always just forget her
But she could try

At the end of the world or the last thing I see
You are never coming home
Never coming home
Could I?
Should I?
And all the things that you never ever told me
And all the smiles that are ever ever

Get the feeling that you’re never
All alone and I remember now
At the top of my lungs in my arms she dies
She dies

At the end of the world
Or the last thing I see
You are never coming home
Never coming home
Could I?
Should I?
And all the things that you never ever told me
And all the smiles that are ever gonna haunt me

Never coming home
Never coming home
Could I?
Should I?
And all the wounds that are ever gonna scar me
For all the ghosts that are never gonna catch me

My First Communion

My First Communion

When my older daughter made her First Communion (years ago now!), she wrote a little essay on the day. Since May is traditionally the month of First Communion celebrations, I thought I would share her memory of the day with you.

On my First Communion Day I was very nervous and happy at the same time. I was finally going to receive Jesus.

I walked up at the beginning of Mass with some flowers to give to Mary and then I went to my seat. My parents, grandparents and my best friend were there but that was not the important thing that day. I was going to receive Holy Communion for the first time.

I had a beautiful First Communion. I made my First Communion on Mother’s Day and my brother, John, was one of the altar boys serving Mass. Now my favorite part of Mass is Communion and being old enough to receive Jesus.

All children making their First Communion should remember that it is not important what you wear or who is at the Mass. It is taking Jesus in your heart that matters.



Every year of life adds memories for us. This poem beautifully points out how poignant these personal histories and how deep they twine into our very being.

by D. H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.
In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cozy parlor, the tinkling piano our guide.
So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamor
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.