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Geezers and Geezettes, Tell Your Stories!
Do you remember when you were a child listening with
fascination to a grandparent or an elderly aunt or uncle telling stories about
the “old days”? I do! And do you remember asking to hear them again and again?
I do, and most of us would agree that these stories were a wonderful way to
connect with the past and to learn about one’s roots. Some stories were about the
struggles and hardships of building new lives in a strange land, and about sadness
and loss. Some were about optimism and triumphs and successes. Others were
quite scary, about snakes and village witches and ghosts in cemeteries. But many
of them were downright funny, enough to make us laugh out loud and to ask for
more. They made us feel warm and cozy, sort of like being wrapped in a magic
cloak. There was no television then (that makes me sound ancient), but who
needed it with such fascinating live entertainment?
By sharing these stories our elders taught us some important lessons about courage and resilience, about the dignity of hard work, lessons that have helped to shape our characters, and in turn those of our children. They also taught us to “look on the bright side”, and to keep our sense of humour in the face of adversity. But most of all we would agree that these storytelling sessions helped to create bonds between generations.
Just think that long before our history was recorded, before words were written in books, that our human story was passed down through generations and centuries by word of mouth. We can only try to imagine how our ancestors would spend an evening without radio or television or the Internet or computers or smart phones, or electric light for that matter. Chances are there would have been lots of storytelling going on!
We can’t turn back the clock and pretend that all these 21st century media don’t captivate much of our time and attention. But neither can we miss the opportunity to pass along our own stories and to create these same story bonds with our children and grandchildren. We must find the time to do so. The best opportunity to tell our stories would be when the family is gathered around the dinner table, a captive audience. Or we can put all those 21st century media to work for us and type, record, video, Skype, Face Time, and whatever else is on the brink of invention and make sure that we get those stories recorded. Myself, I have been typing them on the computer for several years.
Now we may think that our stories aren’t great enough to be told. Not true! They are no less interesting than those of our parents and grandparents. We have our own “olden days” to tell about. My “olden days” are about the fun of being surrounded by a huge extended family, growing up in “Little Italy” and Sunday dinners with extended family when we would number at least 20 and each family had a turn to host.
They are also about the wonderful feast days at the Church and in the streets and the excitement of the fireworks. They are about music and song, about Saturday afternoon operas and Sunday afternoon band concerts in the park. We encountered some weird characters, including an eccentric great uncle named “Sepp” who on Sundays would don his white suit and fancy cane and strut about, or offer rides in the sidecar of his motorcycle. Believe it or not, horse and wagon or sleigh delivered groceries, milk, bread, ice and heating coal and even baked beans and French fries until after WWII. (Now I really sound ancient!)
One of my most vivid memories is of V-E Day, May 8th, 1945 when news came of the Nazis’ surrender. Montreal streets were filled with people chanting “The war is over!” and church bells were ringing. For me, it meant that my Daddy was coming home. My stories are also about being a teenager in the 1950s, about rock and roll music, about sock hops and church hall dances and about the simple pleasures that made life so sweet.
Fellow Geezers and Geezettes, hopefully you are inspired to tell your own stories and to record them in some way or, better yet, to make it a project with your children or grandchildren and create those precious bonds. Let’s keep our history alive. This is our legacy!
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