The relationship between parents and their children is golden at it’s best. The dynamic changes with every new generation added to the family tree. I have wonderful parents. They fought to give us a better life than they had. They did their best. It’s a challenge to picture them as children. In my mind they ever will remain larger than life. Neither of my parents grew up in families where pictures were commonplace. When faced with choices, developing a roll of film probably never made it to the top 10. They struggled with basic necessities for most of their lives. Aside from not having actual pictures, neither speak much about growing up. I was always afraid of bringing up painful memories for them so if they didn’t share, I didn’t ask– until recently.
I was speaking with my grandmother, the mother of my mother. On her last visit here, she had asked me if there was a way to get some songs for her and record them on a CD. She’s not ready for the little music thing– that’s what she calles the iPod. I grabbed a piece of paper to write down the names. Some were songs I remembered hearing when I visited her as a child. My grandmother did not have an easy life and it extended into her adult life. There were some songs missing from the list that I remember her saying she hated. They were the songs that would play loudly to mask sounds she wanted to protect her children from hearing. The titles were fitting– one of the songs was called Please Release Me.
Sometimes it’s easier to ask grandparents things. At least that’s how it is for me. I see the ease and comfort my own children have with all of their grandparents and there have been times, as a parent, I’ve been envious.
My grandmother added one final song to the request. Bill Anderson’s Five Little Fingers. She said this was my mother’s song. It was the song she played the day she brought my mother home from the hospital. Her birthday song.
My mother is the eldest. At the time my mother was born, I’m not sure if my grandmother fully grasped that she had entered a phase in her life that would break most people. She endured and overcame. Her strength and blood flow through my veins. If science ever pinpoints the gene for resilience, spirit of fire and strength of character, I am certain my grandmother and mother have at least twice the normal amount.
A few weeks after I had made my grandmother her CD, my mother came to visit. I asked her if she wanted a copy of the CD I had made for my grandmother. I excitedly told her it had her birthday song on it. She looked at me with a confused look and said she didn’t have a birthday song. I told her about the list and the story my grandmother had told me. It was a story my mother had never heard. She was moved to tears for more reasons than I will probably ever understand.
I’ve recently embarked on a new journey. I am honored you have all chosen to be a part of this adventure. The specifics of each family are different and special. However, I suspect that there are many of you that have a story you need to hear and a story you need to tell. Just as importantly, there is someone who needs to hear that story from you.
There is a radio program called StoryCorps that provides the public with prompts to help them find a start to their story. An easy way to begin a conversation you’ve been dying to have. I invite you to use my post today as a way to help you find your voice and perhaps find the chapter in your life you didn’t know was missing.
Here are some questions to get you started. Remember those grade school assignments you would have to take home and interview your parents…..
I’d love to read your story. Post in the comments section if you’d like to share. I am not a professional writer. I butcher sentences and grammar. Don’t let that stop you.
How did you choose my name?
Do you remember what was going through your mind when you first saw me?
The picture above is of me in the middle with my mom and grandmother.
Here’s a link to a complete set of questions:
My favorite question isn’t on the list but feel free to use it– “What’s my birthday song?”