Monday, February 1, 2010

Good Advice from an Author

I'm getting along pretty well with my A to Z Reading Challenge so far; I just finished Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. It was all right. I like reading children's books, but this one was a little younger than I really prefer. That's not to say anything bad about the book. Curtis did well with maintaining the suspense of the story throughout, and I learned something about the racism that African-Americans faced during the Depression era.

The best thing I took away from the book, though, came in the author's note at the end - actually in the last paragraph.

"Be smarter than I was: Go talk to Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad and other relatives and friends. Discover and remember what they have to say about what they learned growing up. By keeping their stories alive you make them, and yourself, immortal."

My grandfather on my mother's side just turned 99 about a week ago. When I think about everything that has happened in his lifetime, it's pretty amazing. He was about 7 when the U.S. entered World War I, 18 when the stock market crashed, a young married during the Great Depression, in his 30s during World War II. He witnessed Sputnik, the assassination of JFK, Watergate, the fall of the Berlin wall, the fall of the Twin Towers. When he was a child, cars were uncommon. He has only an 8th-grade education, because people had to pay tuition to attend high school, and he needed to work to help support the family, anyway. Now -- although he doesn't use them! -- we have tools that can instanteously communicate with people around the world, and that can store an entire music library on something smaller than a deck of cards. Think of the stories he could tell!

The same thing is true of my father's father. He's a youngster at 94, ha ha. He actually served in the Pacific in World War II, including the Battle of Midway.

But....I haven't heard their stories and probably won't. When we were both younger, I didn't even think about doing it. Now that I realize it, it's not going to happen. For one thing, they aren't exactly forthcoming with the stories. For another, I'm intimidated by them, sad to say. I might feel differently about it if it were my grandmothers. In fact, I do remember hearing some stories from my paternal grandmother about when she was first married and lived in a house with big cracks between the floorboards. The problem is, I didn't write those down, and now she's gone. All I have are the rather faded memories of the conversation.

Maybe kids will take Curtis' advice. But just in case my grandchildren are intimidated by me (ha!) I'm going to try to write down a few things and use scrapbooking to help preserve "how it used to be."

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