Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Oral History or Bust

Mother, why didn’t you tell me about your family?
Father, why didn’t you tell me about your family?
Grandma, why didn’t you tell me anything?

Mother, Father, Grandma.... and me.
It’s a little late to be asking your parents pointed questions after they have passed away. The trick to oral history is to catch them when they are alive; vibrant and coherent. Check this out… interview your grandparents if they are still around!

The National Day of Listening, Friday, November 23, should be subtitled ‘the National Day of Asking Questions About Your Family History’.

When I asked my mother, all she said was that she was born in Williston, South Carolina. Period. I wouldn’t get another word out of her from the fifth grade until I was 24 years old in 1975. I couldn’t turn and ask her mother, my grandmother, because that year they both died, two days and 200 miles apart.

Did it occur to me to ask my father; after watching the ‘Roots’ mini-series on television in 1977? No. I was too busy fumbling around with meditation and reading ‘Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. I think it may have been the year before that Daddy made the trip from New York City up to Binghamton, New York to stay with me while my sister, by then his caretaker, took a vacation to Africa. We were living it up in my bachelor apartment. On the practical side, I had to clean him up, give him shaves and haircuts, and make sure he ate his carrots. It never occurred to me to ask him about his side of the family, while trimming his sideburns. Too bad, because in 1977 he passed away.

They didn’t tell.
I didn’t ask.

Which ancestor do you wish you could interview now?
Better yet, which elder do you wish you could interview now?

Peace & Blessings,
"Guided by the Ancestors"
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