There is much in life that we can take for granted. Often we only realize what we’ve lost once it’s gone. Growing up, I never thought to ask my grandmother what she endured during the World War II years. She had been a farming girl in Ukraine who got swept off into Germany to work as a laborer. Her beloved brother was sent to the mines. To me, she was simply Baba, a curvaceous elderly woman who made pierogies from scratch, cutting each one with an old soup can.
As a wiser adult, I would love to hear her stories. I wish I could learn more about what her life was like. Sadly, it’s too late. It’s not just my own loss. I can no longer share that history with the next generations.
In this current moment, you might not see the value of recording personal stories and information. I suggest motivating yourself to do it anyway. It could easily be that in a few years you realize you wish you had those details.
Some people start with recipes. You can gather up family recipes and look to find the stories behind them. Why were certain ingredients used? You might discover it’s because it’s all that was available at some point in time. Maybe some ingredients relate to family allergies or favorite flavors.
You can gather up favorite songs, books, and movies. I loved reading the books mentioned by my great-grandmother in her diaries. I could connect with her and understand how she felt about the characters.
Challenge yourself to remember as much as you can about your own early years. Then talk with family, friends, and others who were around during that time period. How do your remembrances line up? Do they help you recall other things you’d forgotten about?
Every one of us carves a unique path through life. Our experiences reflect a combination of our culture, our ancestry, our interests, and our dreams. We might not realize just who we could inspire with our story. We live in very interesting times. It could be our own descendants, members of the community we live in, or even society at large who becomes intrigued by what we went through.
I imagine there will be countless students, in the years to come, who will be fascinated to hear why we of our generation did the things we did. The more voices we can document, the fuller that picture will be.
This article was first published by Lisa Shea in the February 2022 issue of the Boston Mensa Beacon.