Memories sustain us and fortunately I’m saturated with so many. I don’t have personal memories of my great-grandparents, on either side of my family. One set lived far away in
My story doesn’t end here.
Downstairs in my kitchen I was baking bread last night. You can’t make cranberry cheese bread without sugar, and as I measured the sugar I was feeling connected to yet another great-grandmother. This one is on my mom’s side. The sugar scoop I use is tin, and black with age. It was first my great-grandmother’s, then my grandmother’s, then my mother’s and now it’s mine. Using the scoop adds an unnecessary step in food prep. For years (when it was in my mom’s sugar canister) I did just fine fetching my sugar. But today, each time I hold that little tin scoop in my hand I feel grateful, grateful for the other hands that held it. It’s my little magic time machine that takes me back to other kitchens, other times.
“One of the greatest honours that we can bestow upon our ancestors is to remember them.” This is a quote I found while preparing this entry for the blog. It was included in a website about the Art of Ancestral Storytelling. It’s said that, regret is the cancer of life, and one of my great regrets is that I wasn’t more proactive, diligent or sensitive in gathering my family’s histories and stories. But, rather than dwelling on unanswered questions, or untold stories I can begin to record the ones I do know and remember. Like an amateur archeologist I can weave some stories from my recollections and the wonderful family artifacts (heirlooms?) now integrated into my own home. While it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever have the privilege of knowing my own great-grandchildren I can leave them a gift of their ancestry by recording mine, and those who went before me. And you can bet that among my written ramblings will be included a little black tin sugar scoop.
Since the beginning of time, and throughout history, stories have bound us together through their teachings, their influencing and informing, not to mention their entertainment value. Yet we’ve all but lost "natural" story telling traditions and skills today. Rather we rely on professionals to tell us stories through TV, movies and books. So what can we do to see that our own personal stories get told? We can write things down without worry of “perfection.” Our purpose is not to sell volumes or make a best sellers’ list, but rather to connect one generation to the next and on down the line. We can make albums that include stories and pictures. We can make audio or video recordings of our stories, we can interview other family relatives and include their voices, their stories. We can tell a story that no one else can.
“Generativity”-- producing new life or offspring. For over a decade Dan P. McAdams, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, and his students have been examining this concept of generativity in the context of the adult’s concern for and commitment to the next generation – through both quantitative surveys and qualitative analyses of life stories. His recent book, The Redemptive Self: Stories American Live By integrates research and images of the life stories of American adults. This book won the 2006 William James Award from the American Psychological Association for best general-interest book in psychology, across all subfields.
This entry submitted by guest blogger, Cathy Colbert Inman