Part 1 of “Top 7 Reasons Golden Agers Write Their Life Stories”

~~ TO BE REMEMBERED ~~

Unless your grandparents (a.) were famous, or (b.) wrote their life stories, you probably don’t know much about them. Or even your parents. As for earlier ancestors, great-grandparents and more distant “greats”, they are probably just names on a genealogy chart. There may be a photograph or two of the later ones, which is precious, but that doesn’t tell much about who they were. It’s already too late. There’s no one left who remembers them, no one who can tell their stories.

I think most of us want to be remembered. We want to be known. That’s the #1 reason people write their life stories. We don’t want to fade into obscurity and oblivion, as most of our ancestors did.

Write Your Life Story

People I know who are researching their family’s genealogy would give anything for a story or two about the folks they’re shaking out of the family tree. My family’s genealogist, Charlie Fairfield, was tickled when I told him this story about my mom and grandpa (his great-aunt and great-grandfather), which was told to me nearly 70 years ago:

It was in Middletown, Missouri, in 1923 (according to the calendar on the rear wall):
Grandpa left his 15-year-old daughter, Zelpha — my mom – to mind the store while he stole off to the poker parlor in the back room of the haberdashery. Grandma was a good Christian woman, absolutely intolerant of sin, which gambling surely was. Grandpa didn’t perceive it as gambling, since he had ways of ensuring that he wouldn’t lose.

Mama pretty much knew what to do in the grocery store in his absence; how to ring up a sale: how to make change; how to wrap a wedge of cheese or string of sausages in butcher paper, and such.

One day, while Grandpa was gone, a lady (whom I’ll call Mrs. Tuxhorn) came in dressed in a flowered cotton house-frock, her straw hat on her head, satchel over one arm, and a wrapped parcel in her hand.
“Afternoon, Zelpha,” she said, looking around, kind of nervous-like. “Your daddy here?”
“No, ma’am, but I can help you.”

Mrs. Tuxhorn seemed relieved. She set her package on the counter and unwrapped it. Her eyes drifted to the screen door that Grandpa had recently departed through.

“What can I do for you, Mrs. Tuxhorn?”
“I’ve brought you a pound of butter, fresh churned.” She grinned a lopsided grin and looked at the door again.
“Yes?”
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with it, you know.”
“No.” Mama shook her head.
“Nothin’ at all. It’s perfectly fine.”
Mama wondered what the matter was. It was not unusual for customers to bring in things like butter and eggs for barter.
“How can I help you, Mrs. Tuxhorn?”
“Well, it’s just that . . . you see . . . it’s just that a mouse run acrost it, and . . . well, I couldn’t eat it, knowing.”
Mama didn’t know what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened before. “Well, I sure wish my daddy was here.”
Mrs. Tuxhorn continued, “You just wrap it up in butcher paper, like you always do, and sell it to someone else. What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em.”
Now Mama wished Grandpa would come back. She hemmmed and hawed and made small talk while Mrs Tuxhorn uttered assurances as if this were an everyday occurrence.

Mama stalled until Grandpa came through the door, jingling his winnings in his pants pocket. He went straightaway to the back room so his daughter could finish her transaction. She grabbed up Mrs. Tuxhorn’s butter, along with its paper wrapping, from the counter and made a beeline to the back of the store. She told Grandpa what she’d been asked to do. “. . . And,” Mama whispered, “Mrs. Tuxhorn said, ‘What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em.’”

Grandpa smiled and winked at her. He tore a new piece of butcher paper from the roll and wrapped up Mrs. Tuxhorn’s butter, tying and breaking a length of string with a snap. He handed it to her and said, “Take this out and give it back to her. Now don’t let on…….. She’s right. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

Mama did as she was told. “Here you are, Mrs. Tuxhorn, a nice pound of butter, fresh churned.”

Mrs. Tuxhorn left Grandpa’s store none the wiser, with the same pound of butter she’d brought in, nodding and smiling a self-satisfied smile.

§§§§

This simple little story contains a wealth of information and gives a good portrayal of two of my ancestors – Mom and Grandpa — ensuring that they won’t be forgotten. They’ll emerge from future genealogy charts as real people, with personality, humor, intelligence and resourcefulness. And now, because it’s in writing, my (and my sibling and cousins’) children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren, and so forth and so on, will have a window into the lives of these three people – some of their “greats”.

Because you write the stories of you and your family, your descendants will remember you too. You are the only one who can tell your stories, because you’re the only one who knows them.

You’re the only one who really knows your values, beliefs, quirks, passions, philosophy, your sense of humor, your accomplishments, your philanthropies, your adventures and misadventures, your adversities, your adversaries, your struggles, complexities, what makes you tick, what interests you, what excites you, who you fell in love with, how you chose your career(s), why you moved from one part of the world to another, what you have learned about life, et cetera.

The above story is a generation removed. My mother told it to me when I was a kid, and fortunately, I remember stories. Mom didn’t write her stories down, and this is one of the few tales I have from either of my parents. Even though I know very little about my parents, I have, by default, become the family historian. That may be your role too. I hope you’ll do it joyfully, as I have, and leave a priceless legacy for your descendants, and perhaps your siblings’ descendants, and their descendants.

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My book on memoir writing, Your Life Oughta Be A Book, is available at http://CarolPurroy.com, in print form as well as Kindle and Nook eBooks. It is chock full of helpful ideas and stories to inspire you in your writing.

Also available at http://CarolPurroy.com is her own book of memoirs, That’s Life, which many memoirists have found to be extremely useful. In addition, it’s a very good read, with approximately 100 short stories – funny, poignant, sad, joyful, miraculous, amazing. (Also in print and eBook at my website.)

 

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