The Last of a Generation.......
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we have come from." -Alex Haley
"You monkeys snuck right past me," she said as she walked up behind us to open the door to her apartment. She ambled up the sidewalk , cane in hand....in her thick coat and knit hat that her mother made. My sister and I had just arrived and didn't see her sitting in her car in the parking lot.
"I was waiting in my car, watching for you."
"For how long?", we asked.
"Since 9 o'clock", she said.
"NORMA!", I said, because I knew it was after 10. "Did you not think we could find our way? It's freezing outside!"
She just grinned at me and unlocked the door to let us all in from the cold.
Norma is my second cousin and lives in Hagerstown, MD. She's the last of my grandfather's generation. She's approaching 90 and is a treasure trove of memories and stories of growing up near my grandfather and her summers spent on his farm.
My sister and I met up in Hagerstown this past weekend for a two-fold purpose.....to see each other one last time before she flies back to her current home in London, and to visit with Norma and record her memories and stories for future generations. My grandfather died when I was pretty young...so her stories are my connection to him...a living diary of their intertwined lives.
Norma is all spunk and personality, as were most of the women on my dad's side of the family. She loves visits from "cousins" and basked in the attention and questions. As she recounted her past, she would often drift off, getting caught up in the memory...often a smile would appear during these moments..or a tear in the eye. She told us of the mischief that would happen on the farm....and of fighting with her sister over Emory Metzger, whom her sister ended up marrying. Her favorite phrase is "Cotton-pickin"...used over and over in regards to people and circumstances.
Norma and her younger sister, Jenny, never married. They lived together most of their life and provided foster care to infants until a home was found for them. We took Norma to her favorite diner for lunch and she pointed to a place in the restaurant where one of her foster babies found his "forever family"...a couple that saw him as they were having dinner and became enamored with him, eventually adopting him. We chauffeured her around town as she pointed out places that were near and dear to her...giving me driving directions such as "Stay on this road until you get somewhere else".....
At the end of a wonderful day spent together, we hugged and kissed, and her parting words were, "I love you, monkeys!" A day to be cherished.... and stories to be passed down to the next generation so that the "living" history of our family will be preserved and told for years to come....
(photos courtesy of my sis' )