How a story can be the key to feeling like you fit in
Have you ever been told, “Oh, you’re JUST LIKE __________!” (Insert name of older generation relative you never got a chance to meet).
All you can really do is hope that said relative was a good person, and the attributes you share are the positive ones. Aside from saying, “oh, that’s cool,” there’s not much you can do except wonder about the person’s life.
In my own case, I used to be told that I had the same impish humor that my grandfather did. He passed away when I was a wee babe, so any similarities have to be either coincidental or somehow passed down in the DNA. I’m rather pleased to be known as a similarly humorous person, as the stories I’ve heard all seem to involve laughter and the odd mischievous prank. The photos I’ve seen of him suggest that he was quite the card at parties (given the shots of dancing and drink pouring). I don’t believe I live up to that level of outgoingness, but I find it charming, and hold the photos dear.
My connection now is only through those photos, as almost everyone else who knew my grandfather has passed on. I have the stories in my head, told to me by others, but these are mismatched from the photos lying in albums. I feel an urgency to write them down.
I told this story at one of my memoir writing workshops, and one participant asked if she could tell us her own similar story:
I was a bookworm in my childhood, always choosing to read something in the corner rather than joining in with the other kids’ sports and games. My mother would try to coax me away from the books, worried that I’d become “too shy” or end up with no friends.
I had no interest in the games, though, and had a much better time with my books, especially the encyclopedias. Time could fly past while I read about science discoveries, my favourite topic, or about the planets.
One Sunday when the family was all gathered at some auntie’s house for dinner, my mother did her usual bit of urging me to put my science magazine down and go play with the dolls my cousins had brought along.
My grandfather was watching as I clutched the pages tightly, shaking my head in firm refusal. “That girl is JUST LIKE her grandmother! Warms my heart to see her read so much, like my Marybella used to do!”
Mum and I both stopped. I asked Granddad, “what did Grandma like to read?”
“Well, she had wanted to be a scientist, but in those days nobody had the money for university. That was for rich folks. So, although she loved her home and raising your mother and aunts, she spent her evenings with her nose in library books. Always science books, sometimes medical ones.”
My mother let go of my magazine. It was clear she remembered her own mother’s passion for reading, and realized it wasn’t going to make anyone a social outcast.
Today I am still so grateful my grandfather told that story. I became a chemistry researcher, and although I’m retired I still love to “put my nose in a book”.
ABOUT THE KIN KEEPERS
The Kin Keepers are those family members who know all the family’s stories, and pass them along to the next generations. They remember the birthdays, plan the celebrations, and make the calls to see that everyone is okay. Their spirit of kinship is what keeps the family together and strong