Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stories Untold

Friday, we headed down to see Aunt Anna and Uncle Herman. I'd missed seeing them over Christmas because I had a wicked cold, and I couldn't justify going to the family Christmas party, possibly passing it along to a people who are in their nineties, some of them in pretty poor health. So I stayed home while Tim went, and I was pretty unhappy with the way it all worked out.

So we headed out Friday after the job interview for the two hour drive to see two of the finest people that I know. It was a quiet visit, but so very nice. Aunt Anna showed me a gift that they'd been given, a calendar with very old pictures. I flipped through it. When I came to a picture of a group of boys wearing knickers, Uncle Herman smiled. "Oh, I remember knickers," he said. "I remember how badly I wanted to wear long pants. They had just gotten popular with the boys, but my mother did not want to hear about styles. She didn't care about that. I wore knickers over top of those heavy socks that came up over your knees." "Do you remember your first long pants?" I asked, and he answered "No. After all of that, I don't. I just remember how I hated my knickers." And Aunt Anna reminisced about her brother George, who was much older than she. He was in college, a seminarian, and was wearing long pants, but managed to get the cuff stuck on a stake as he walked across the yard. He fell flat, and a small stack of letters from his girl, Eloise (who he married, and that marriage endures to this very day) went flying. Aunt Anna and her sisters snatched them up and headed in all directions with them. And the stories went on and on, punctuated by soft laughs and far away looks as they sat rocking in their chairs, facing each other across the living room. Uncle Herman talked about properly curing a ham, and smoking fish (and the time that the shack that they had built out of hemlock to smoke the fish in had caught fire). They talked about making storage mounds for your potatoes and apples, so that they would last the winter. They talked about spring houses and chickens they had known. How homemade cottage cheese is far better than store bought (and since I used to make my own cottage cheese and yoghurt, I can attest to the truth of this.) Stories of their childhood, how much Uncle Herman loved sledriding in the winter, just about better than anything, and the time that he went down a hill, lying on the sled on his belly, his sister Mable sitting on his back. He still laughs at the memory of his sister screaming the entire way down the hill, stopping only after they crashed into the willow tree.

Old voices recounted old stories, and I truly could have listened to them forever. On the way home, I stared into the darkness. I love looking at old pictures, but it thrills me to know people who know the things of these old pictures, who remember life as it was back then, and I think that if I ever wrote books, one of them would be 'Stories Untold'. Countless stories reside in the minds of countless frail and elderly people, and are on the verge of being lost forever.


A Novel Woman said...

Do yourself a big favour and invest in a small point and shoot camera that takes videos. Canon PowerShot is under $200 and takes decent shots. Or borrow one and upload the files to your computer.

Next time you visit, you'll have a permanent record of their stories and voices. Aren't older relatives just the best?

quid said...

It's hard to think of our paths to everyday history disappearing with the generation before us. I'm sure they thought that, too, when they were where we are. All we can do is chronicle. You did that very well here.


BUSH BABE said...

I agree with you all. Do as Pam says: get that camera. Set it up nearby and just talk as you the film rolls. Let it be natural. Best form of note-taking there is!

Mikey said...

I think you should write that book.

Kelly said...

Those stories are truly a treasure! Yes! Write the book! Tape/record their stories! Start writing down your own! I had a post a long while back about a book called "The Legacy Guide" which is a great tool for guiding one to write their own history.

nanatrish said...

Debby, you have such a gift in your writing. I loved this story about your trip to the elderly relatives. You are blessed to be able to visit with them. I keep forgetting to tell you that I graduated from college finally at 48. I have never had the first regret. We all have a different journey and mine took me 25 years. I changed majors multiple times and was doing lots of things in between. God will be there to help you all the way. trish

WhiteStone said...

Loved this post. I was almost sitting there with you as I read. As for knickers...would you believe my hubby wore them to school when he attended school in New York. I suppose that makes him more ancient than me. lol

Samuel Paddock said...

Like it!

Rhubarb Whine said...

I'd love to read all ofyour stories bound together as a novel.

What a great time to be had!