Monday, January 30, 2012

When Our History Is His History

I love hearing stories about my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles when they were younger. It's a sense of connection that creates an even strong bond amongst our family, and I know we aren't the only ones - the wee ones love hearing stories about "Mickey the Dickens" and other characters, too. My parents tend to be the major story tellers right now, but I know that will change and I will be the one someday.

For now, I enjoy listening to the stories of how my parents were once like me. They were young and silly and kids and had adventures and troubles and giggles and more. When we hear new stories, there's always something we learn about personalities that we hadn't known before - something that of course sets of the desire to know more and explore this little tidbit further.

My dad was once engaged before my mom. In fact, he was engaged when he met my mom. Or maybe when he started dating her. I don't really know because I heard those details once upon a time, and everyone's clammed up since. I don't know any of the details, and to me it sounds like it could be such a romantic story. Boy thought he was in love but realized Girl was the one for him, and nothing could stand in the way of their happy ever after. Maybe. But I don't know.

And of course the less anyone will speak the more I want to know. It isn't because I would be judging them, but instead because it provides a window into their personalities. How did they really meet? What was their dating relationship like? Why did he decide to marry her? What was it about my mom - and my dad - that was so special? I'll probably never know, and a part of me is sad about that.

At the same time, there are parts of my life that I'm just as happy if the wee ones were to never know. I'm ok not having them know about the night before my last college final first quarter my freshman year. Do they need to know my entire dating history? Do I want them to know about how my husband started drinking at the age of 12? Or that he drove his then girlfriend home from some party and she was so drunk he just rolled her onto the lawn? Ummm no.

That said, some of those stories would probably be great learning lessons for the wee ones. "What not to do when" type situations that could engender some really poignant conversations. Or maybe there are things we just want to keep to ourselves for other reasons. Family history is important to me, knowing who the people are - not just their names and where they were born and how they're related to me.

Where do you fall? Do you want to know all the little tidbits that make your relatives into real people, or do you fall into the camp of limiting what information you share about yourself?

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a copy of "The Joy of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Philip Sendker as part of the From Left To Write book club where we write posts inspired by the book rather than traditional book reviews. I was not compensated for writing this post, and all opinions remain my own.


Tami January 30, 2012 at 3:30 PM  

I have the story of my husband and me written in a journal for the kids to have when the are older. I do a lot of scrapbooking and have made a "heritage" one. It has as many pictures of the past in it that I can get my hands on. I have pictures of my 4xgreat grandparents. I wrote down the stories my grandparents told me to go along with the pictures.

Tara R. January 30, 2012 at 4:20 PM  

My kids are both considered adults, and there are stills stories about me and their dad, both as a couple and singly, that they don't know. Probably never will.

Gina January 30, 2012 at 7:34 PM  

I want the stories, but my family is a close-mouthed bunch. Not about most everything else, but anything that might be seen as "scandalous" they prefer to hide under the rug. It's insane.

Sandra January 30, 2012 at 11:34 PM  

Well, I do plan to tell my kids, when they are old enough, about the one and only time I got smashed drunk and the stupid things I then did, as well as the one and only time I got a speeding ticket, and all the stupid circumstances around that. Just to show that stupidity can be avoided. There's not a whole lot that I wouldn't tell my kids about my history, but I'm sure that they won't want to reciprocate, in which case, I probably don't want to know.

Raevyn January 31, 2012 at 1:56 PM  

While you have your parents (and any other previous generations) who know the stories, record them... You don't have to publish them anywhere, but record them. There are so many stories that I remember bits and pieces of from my Grandmother & her sisters, but I don't know the whole story, and the only 2 left of that generation were the babies of the family and didn't ever know some of the stories, so with my mom & grandmother gone, so are most of the stories, because my grandmother was largely the historian in the family, and we never had her write them down, or record them.

Janin January 31, 2012 at 8:40 PM  

I actually made my boys a little pop-up book about "The Story of How I Met Your Father" (: It's one of their favorites. Even so, there are parts they don't need to know (;

Lisa Hanneman January 31, 2012 at 11:13 PM  

I love that our family stories make our parents and grandparents actually seem human. It somehow levels out the playing field... In my mind I figure that if they were like me at some point then they were capable of doing all the same stupid stuff I've done. And one day my kids will do the same. I just hope I remember enough details to share it with them.

Thien-Kim aka Kim February 1, 2012 at 12:09 AM  

There's a discrepancy of my husband's birthday and his parent's wedding anniversary, but no one will tell him anything. LOL!

Bren February 1, 2012 at 7:44 AM  

Great post. I think family secrets are so important and the more secret they are the more damage they probably do to all the parties involved. Hang out the dirty laundry for all to see and it loses the power to hurt anyone!

Taylor February 1, 2012 at 3:13 PM  

My family definitely has lots of secrets. They can make such a mess, can't they? I think my husband and I are going to try and be open with our kids....but there are definitely stories they don't need to hear!

Sendker February 1, 2012 at 5:12 PM  

Dear Michelle,
what an interesting way to write about my book "The Art of Hearing Heartbeats". I like your post very much and I am glad that the book inspired you to your thoughts.
Many thanks for reading it.
Jan-Philipp Sendker

Marlene February 1, 2012 at 8:07 PM  

I love the perspective that you chose to write about--the story of our parents and the story we'll pass down. You're so right that you probably don't want to share every embarrassing thing you did, but it does help to show just how human you will always be.

Michelle February 2, 2012 at 2:01 PM  

Tami - Oh that is such a smart idea. I love that. I wonder if I can talk to my mom about doing something like this for the wee ones since she knows WAY more stories than I do.

Tara - Somehow, I have a feeling that's a good thing. ;)

Gina - I agree. There are some things that are private, but hiding anything that seems anywhere close to not perfect creates the wrong atmosphere.

Sandra - Yep, that's sort of how I feel. Mister Man and I had a long talk about failure the other day, and I shared with him how I failed my driver's test the first time and what I learned from it. He was shocked, but those are important conversations, I think.

Raevyn - I agree. Keeping those stories and traditions alive is huge. I'm going to have to figure out a way to do this.

Janin - THAT is so cool. Have you posted about it ever? I'd love to see a tutorial of it and create something like that for the wee ones!

Lisa - They really do, don't they? I think we learn a lot from those stories that help us become better people.

Kim - Of course not. There's a discrepancy for Mister Man, too... and someday he'll ask, and we'll tell him exactly why.

Bren - That's a big piece of it. It loses its power, especially over the people involved. Perfect.

Taylor - It's figuring out where that line lies that's the key. I know we'll be struggling with that at some point.

Jan-Philipp - Thank you! I really enjoyed reading your book, and it raised so many questions. I'm glad you're writing a sequel!

Marlene - Yes, and I think knowing that I'm human will help the wee ones in their lives, knowing they need to be simply who they are and not some idealized person no one ever could be.

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