Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ask Your Family for their Stories

The Wicker Cottage.
My mind is swimming with the new information I acquired while home after my Uncle’s death. There were so many stories I hadn’t heard before, unknown to me and my parents. My maternal grandmother, 83, was especially chatty, sharing stories about her own grandparents, who both worked for a local wealthy family in Lockport. Her grandpa was the groundskeeper for the Kenans and her grandma was their cook.
My grandpa’s cousin shared information about my mom’s father’s family that we didn’t have, solving the mystery of way my great-great grandfather was an only child. He was not an only child, just the only one who survived. My Uncle, older than my father and the brother they just lost, shared a letter full of memories of my grandparents, including the mother my father never knew and the grandmother I never met. My heart is full of joy at fleshing out her character and sorrow at never having known her.
This morning, in the wavering heat of the summer air, her ghost is almost tangible. My great-grandparents, the Rustons, grew vegetables during the war and Grandma Ruth and her sons helped with the weeding and growing. I can almost hear her laughter as I work on the neglected garden I abandoned while visiting my family.
I learned that the Rustons also had a cottage at Olcott, a small town on Lake Ontario. Where it used to sit is now a garage, attached to another cottage sitting beside two more. The trio used to belong to the Wicker brothers Hiram, William, and Frank. Hiram was my great-great-grandfather, and his cottage is still standing.
In my sadness, I am overwhelmed by the history. Standing at the edge of life, time is irrelevant and much that is unknown feels within reach. If I hadn’t asked, I’d never have known. I am grateful for the stories my Uncle Dave told me about his stint in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis this past Christmas. And I’m grateful that I was old enough to understand what a gift it was to receive all these stories I now hold.
I am a storyteller. And I am a storykeeper. They are swimming in my head and I am waiting for them to settle until they are part of my known histories.
Ask your parents and your grandparents and your great-grandparents how they met. What was their favorite music? Song? Book? What was the first film they remember seeing in a movie theater? What church did they attend? What were their first jobs? Who were their first heroes? What hobbies did they have or enjoy? Or wish they’d taken up? What do they say is the most important thing they learned about life?

Don’t let time and distance stand between you and knowing your history. Don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised to learn what you discover. This morning, I feel closer to a woman I never thought I’d have the chance to get to know. Today I am thinking about my Grandma Ruth and her son Dave, and hoping that they have been reunited in whatever comes after this life. 

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