History Lessons


Today would have been my maternal grandmother's 120 something birthday.  My family and I live in the house that she lived in from 1924 to 1994.  Because she lived in this house for most of her life (longer than my grandfather), I tend to think of her a lot.  This house was her domain.

In some ways the two of us are a lot alike.  We are both short.  We both spent most of our lives in the same town.  Perhaps there are more similarities, but I can't think of them or I don't know and that is a shame.

I had 28 years with my grandmother; although the last 4 years of her life she was not able to communicate much and to my shame, I pretty much ignored her.  To my shame, I didn't spend enough time learning more about my grandmother.  Everyone, no matter who you are, has a story to tell.  The problem is that most of us don't bother to ask or take the time to listen.  That is something I very much regret.

Actually I regret not listening enough to any of my three grandparents.  (My paternal grandfather died before I was born.)  There is so much I wish I knew.  There are so many questions I have NOW, although I may not have had them back when they were alive.  I was self-centered and uninterested at the time.  (In my defense aren't most under 30 self-centered?)  Now I regret what I do not know.  

When I was younger I did listen to my grandfather's stories.  Maybe it was because they were more "exotic." He grew up on a farm in Ohio; a place where I still haven't been.  (Hmm...Maybe that's something I should consider when this pandemic is over; actually going to the area where my grandfather was from even though it will be completely different.)  I recorded some of his stories on a shoddy tape which is now impossible to listen to.  (Not just because of the change in technology, but because the quality of tape was poor and you can barely hear anything other than tape hiss.)  But I do have some limited memories because I heard these stories more than once.

Why didn't I listen to my grandmother as much?  I recall my grandfather being more of a storyteller, but that doesn't mean I should not have been asking my grandmother about her life experiences too.  Perhaps I thought her "boring" because she really never left NJ.  Except that she did and I never asked about it.  She traveled (with her family) to California on a train.  (Which is how I think she met my grandfather.)  She put together a scrapbook about the vacation, but I never knew about that until recently because I never asked.  The trip took over a month and there must be so many tales that could have been told, but I never asked.  The photos (from over 100 years ago) only beg more questions.

Why did I never ask my grandmother about how she met my grandfather?  About her wedding?  I have a photo of her taken on her wedding day, but I don't have any of the couple.  Why is that?  Why did they move to Chicago?  More importantly, why did they come back after only a year?  What made them decide on this house?

I think of all the history that my grandmother lived through.  She graduated high school as the 1918 pandemic was taking place.  Now I really wish I knew about her experience.  What insight would she have had for me?  How did she and my grandfather survive the great depression?  What was my/her hometown like during World War II?

There is so much I do not know.  There is no way to hear HER stories.   That time is passed; I have wasted any opportunity that I might have had.

Maybe that is why I write/blog now; to share my stories and experiences.  They may not be earth shattering. They may not even be interesting...now.  Maybe some day someone will want to know.  So here is my trail of history as exciting or boring as it may be.  If some day someone wants to know; all they have to do is look.  And if no one does...that's okay too.  History exists…


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