I’m eager to get started again working on the book about my mother’s life, which is at the halfway point to completion of the first draft. I’d like to say my motivation is because I just can’t wait to get back to work on this interesting project, but that’s not my primary motivation. I’m motivated by the fear that if I don’t complete this now, I may procrastinate until something interferes one day and I’m unable to complete it at all, and I would deeply regret that.
In settling in after moving I’ve had occasion to go through some of the very old family photos again. It occurs to me that my sister and I are likely the last people to care about most of this very large collection of photographs, and we are both 60+ now. I’m not expecting we’ll pass on anytime soon, but it bothers me to think that these interesting people and their lives will be forgotten forever one of these days.
It’s not that they’ve done anything particularly extraordinary; there are no explorers or research scientists or inventors in the group. They are likely, for the most part, pretty average. But I’ve heard many of their stories for most of my life from my mother and grandmother and always found them intensely intriguing.
Like many as we’ve gotten older, I became very interested in genealogy in my 40s. I know more about some branches of the family than others, thanks mainly due to research done by others. I know about the Moomaws, for example, back to when they first came to this country from Germany, via the Netherlands, in the 1700’s, and can trace any Moomaw back to the original 3 progenitors who arrived here. I know some about my mother’s ancestry, particularly on her father’s side, but very little about the family history of either of my grandmothers, though I hope to learn more over time.
There used to be a segment on CBS News called “Everybody Has a Story” and host Steve Hartman would throw a dart at a map of the U.S. and wherever it landed, he and a cameraman would visit the town, pick a name at random out of the phone book, and interview them, getting their story. It was always interesting, because we are ALL interesting. So many stories, some that will be remembered, but the vast majority forgotten, which is a shame, yet it happens every day. Even if we learn as much as we can and try to hold onto the stories, they will eventually inevitably fall into obscurity.
I think the best we can do is learn as much as we can about our family’s stories and let them enrich our lives, our understanding and our experience. We can learn from them and pass them on to the next generation. I have no illusions that the book about my mother will become a bestseller and in truth it will likely have a very limited readership, but if her story is interesting and life-enhancing to even a few people, it will have been worth writing. Understanding her motivations and those of my grandmother because of what they endured helps me understand my own life so much better.
As I’ve said in the past, ask your family about their stories while you can; don’t let your history slip away.