Who 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.