Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Remembering the Past - or Not

This is only a few shelves in my library.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m a reader. I read TIME with my morning cup of coffee and breakfast. I read the newspaper with lunch and supper. When evening comes, I’m almost always in my nesting chair with a book or two listening to music and reading. When I go to bed, I have another book to read before I go to sleep. I even read in the bathroom – usually Reader’s Digest which is perfect for there. That started when I was raising a flock of small children – four in less than five years. It was the only place I found peace when they were awake. Not that it was much peace since usually at least one child was lying on the floor outside calling for me under the door wondering when I was coming out.

Recently, I came across an article in Readers Digest – 13 Things Ancestry Trackers Won’t Tell You by Michelle Crouch. The fourth one was “Talk to your older relatives now – I mean today – about what they remember, and write it down. Then hunt through their attics for old photos, obituaries, newspaper articles, military papers and more, etc. etc.” I read that and thought, My Heavens! I’m the oldest one in my immediate family and out of a previously large amount of aunts and uncles; I only have two older uncles and one older aunt left. The aunt has lived far away and is not in good health. I haven’t seen her in fifteen years or more. The uncles I see occasionally – one lives fairly close. He remembers the past quite well, or at least the same stories he tells me when I see him. The other lives fifty miles away and when I arrange a reunion or a luncheon in a restaurant for cousins and siblings with him, he comes. He’s in his nineties and still rather alert, but he admits to not remembering things I ask him about. As for the memorabilia, it’s cluttering my house. What he still has will go to his children.

A few days ago I read an article by John Parker, a community columnist in our local newspaper. He was reminiscing about the rural areas of our county and how they’ve changed since he was young. He’s in his early eighties, I think. Having lived in the rural areas of my county for all but three years of my life, and being only about six or seven years younger than him, I could relate to that. He wrote about how the small farms, indeed most farms, are fewer now, and those few dairy farms left are much larger. He wrote how each community had its school, grocery or general store, gas station, etc. and how the people who operated these places of business knew you. He lived in a more rural area than I did, so although I don’t remember anyone in the grocery store closest to my school remembering me, I still remember those wooden floors and on the days I decided to walk home from school instead of taking the bus, and buying a candy bar from the one clerk behind the counter. Now it’s still owned by the Klingemier family, but it’s a large and modern store with lots of people working for them. All of them friendly and helpful, too.
Aren't we adorable?

The morning I read the column also happened to be the annual excursion to Bluestone Perennial’s up near Lake Erie my sisters Elaine, Suzanne and I take every spring to use the generous gift certificate our brother gives us every Christmas. When they arrived bright and early, Suzanne brought me some things she thought I’d want. I did. One was a picture of my younger brother and me as toddlers on a beach at Geneva-on-the-Lake where our parents had rented a cottage for a week. She’s had it for years and thought I’d like it now. It was enlarged and in a nice frame. I’ve only remembered that time because over the years as our family grew, we went for picnics up there every year and the cottage had been pointed out often enough for me to know it. There was an arbor with climbing red roses over it by the front door. She also gave me a painting she said our mom had painted when I’d been teaching her to paint. I have absolutely no recollection of that. Yes, I was an artist, of sorts, for more than twenty years, went to art shows, sold paintings, etc. but I have no memory of teaching my mom to paint. I’m wondering if it was when she stayed with me for ten days when my father was admitted to a local hospital for about that long. I’m assuming it was the only picture she painted and I think it’s lovely. I’m going to frame it. Where I’ll hang it, I have no idea. She also gave me an exquisite etching on metal of an antique stove with elaborate details that my sister said my father had done at work when he worked in a factory when he was younger. I stared at that for the longest time that evening marveling at how intricate and beautiful it was.

Because it's etched on metal the flash on the camera hid part of it. 
After a lovely day of traveling to Madison, Ohio, much of it through Amish areas, and almost two hours spent at Bluestone Perennials. We headed to Geneva for lunch with the back of my car filled with plants. After lunch at Cup of Joe, a small restaurant, we visited some antique shops, and then drove to a state park on Lake Erie. It was too cold to walk on the beach, but we stayed awhile to look at the lake before heading home through the country side we know through years of traveling on picnics with our family. We did a lot of reminiscing about those picnics and Warner’s Hollow, a deep ravine with a rock filled stream at the bottom where we picnicked at least once or twice a year. From spring through fall, our family went on picnics almost every Sunday with an aunt, uncle and four cousins after church.
The End of the Commons in Mespo

When we got to Mesopotamia where every year they hold an Ox Roast over Fourth of July weekend with the commons filled with antique and other dealers. It’s a big fund raising event for the local fire department. I mentioned I hadn’t been to one for quite a long time. Suzanne remembered the time my husband had me locked up. It was part of the fund raising where this big burly man, as she remembered, came and arrested me as I finished my meal and took me off and locked me in a cage. I wasn’t allowed out until someone paid the fine. She remembers our mom and her standing outside the cage laughing, but mom finally took pity on me and paid the fine. Like the painting, I don’t remember that except after she told me about it, I think maybe I have a vague recollection.

For much of that trip home, we recalled stories from our past. It was a good day even though it was chilly, and one of the best parts was reliving memories from the past.
Only the first of the plants I'll be buying this year.

What memories from the past do you have that you enjoy remembering?


Jim Jackson said...

My memory (sort of) reaches four generations back. I recall my grandfather talking about his grandparents. But not much. I wish I had picked their brains more – which was the point of the article you referred to. It’s too late when it’s too late.

I would also commend people to put full descriptions on the backs of pictures. Things like “Uncle Ted” aren’t very useful when it is unclear where and when the picture was taken and therefore even which branch of the tree the picture came from.

~ Jim

Kait said...

What wonderful memories. A friend of mine attended a birthday party for her 100 year old great uncle in January. She and another cousin started asking questions and making notes. They heard stories they had never heard before. The visit and party were especially meaningful as the man passed early this month. They are in the process of putting together a remembrance book.

I have always cherished hearing memories from those who lived through them. I have found though that you have to be careful in the asking. Some folks get offended when you ask them to share memories!

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I agree with you about names on the back of pictures. Shortly after my mother died a year after my father, the six of us siblings went through boxes of photographs. Some people we recognized and others we had no idea who they were - some from the late 1800s, I assume.

Kait, I understand about being careful what you ask, but I remember when one of my aunt's was bedridden. I started asking her about her childhood growing up in a coal mining town in PA. I heard some wonderful stories about my father and their large family.

E. B. Davis said...

I rarely look to the past, except for memories of when my children were little. Everyday, I plan for the future. If I ever spend more time on the past then on the's too depressing to think about! Sometimes forgetting the past is the best policy.

When my kids were little, I stuck a copy of "A Minute with Andy Rooney" in the bathroom, Gloria. I felt so cut off by my lack of reading time then. But little people need a lot of attention, and I am glad I was able to give them my time when they needed it. Of course, I making up for it now!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

A trip to Bluestone Perennials with a close friend. The daylilies I bought grow more robust every year and bring back happy memories.

Shirley said...

Just before my grandmother turned 90, we cornered her and secretly asked her all kinds of questions about her younger life. We found out so many things. We put them in a pamphlet and passed them out at her 90th birthday party. So glad we did that cause she's gone now. Memories are the best.

Kara Cerise said...

Beautiful memories, Gloria! I don't remember hearing many family stories. But I do remember learning that my grandmother was a shoe model in Boston when she was young. Also, she watched for German submarines off the Massachusetts coast during World War II. I wish I had asked her more questions about her life.

Norma Huss said...

When my dad was 88 he was thinking the same thing. Since I was the writer in the family, he gave me six audio tapes he'd made, telling about his adventures working in Alaska, age 19-22. Together we put it in proper form and I printed it on typing paper, published it into loose-leaf folders, and gave copies to relatives. He's gone now, but in 2012, I published it through Amazon, and the same relatives love it. But it has reached a wider audience, being appreciated by people he had never met.

Anonymous said...

I'm at Malice having computer problems. I'm on a borrowed computer and have to give it back. Thanks for leaving a comment E.B., Margaret, Shirley, Kara and Norma. I'll leave a comment tomorrow,


Grace Topping said...

Terrific article, Gloria. My problem is I find myself the older generation in my family now. I find myself the holder of many of the family stories. If I don't write them down, they will be lost forever.

KM Rockwood said...

My family's "memories" seem to be partially obscured and partially manufactures. When one of my brothers tried to trace things back, he hit lots of roadblocks. A grandfather who was a Molly Maguire & fled, changing his name so he could start another life. On the other side, a grandfather who claimed he was German but all evidence points to a Russian background. I'm afraid I did no better for my children--one of them has a father whose family says they are Polish, but with a French surname (a soldier who stayed behind in Poland, perhaps?) and looks distinctly Mongolian, despite blue eyes. The other daughter's father didn't know his background beyond his mother, who kept changing the stories she told him.

I have found that people in my family are reluctant to share war stories, or information from when they were helpless children caught in impossible situations. One grandmother had a lovely paperweight that had been given to her by a "sea captain who never came back" and that's all she'd tell us.

Gloria Alden said...

Grace, I'm one of the older members,too, although I still have several cousins on both sides of the family who are older and one who is my age. I think it's wise of you to write them down.

Interesting past, KM. On my mother's side we could only trace back as far as greats locally because with a surname of Jones, there were so many of them in Connecticut where my ancestors moved after coming over from Wales, it was hard to find which Jones family they were connected to.