Friday, February 16, 2007

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' )

13 comments:

Joel and Jaime said...

What a neat idea---to record memories and stories! Maybe I should do that sometime with some of my older relatives.

Anna said...

What a treat for you all to be with eachother (you and you know who) and for you to hear these stories and record them. Norma is beautiful bluemountainmama and she looks quite fun! :)

PS...my pic is up!

Carmi said...

You've reminded me why it is so important that the stories don't die with the generation, that subsequent generations can experience the richness of their ancestors' lives through the retelling of their experiences.

Somewhat subconsciously, I've been cataloging my parents' and other older relatives' lives much more intently of late. A part of me is afraid of the day when the stories are all I have.

I love your work more and more each time I return.

photowannabe said...

Delightful story about family and really caring. We all need people like that in our lives.
Thanks so much for your prayers and concern for my husband. With antibiotics he should be on his way to recovery soon.

Kendra said...

Oh, I am so inspired right now to spend more time with my grandparents. My grandmother has all of the geneology books, photos and stories that must be captured and understood while she's here!
Thank you for sharing this story, blessings to you as you play 'family historian.'

busybusymomma said...

Thanks for sharing! Some of my grandparent's memories are so great... I'm so glad I have them.

It's an important part of history, I think. We can learn so much from it.

MotherPie said...

How sweet. Take care in writing those stories down. We are the historians for all the family. Sometimes little nuggets are gleaned in the most unlikely conversations...

kaliblue said...

Oh, you are so blessed to have had this opportunity to gather all the memories up of days gone by as you can. I hate that lots of my families past has drifted away along with them.*sigh* :-).
Have A Gret Weekend!!

Just Being Me said...

Hi there. I just happened upon your blog by a comment you left on Anna's. I just want to tell you that this was a very touching story, filled with love and respect. You did a great job and I enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing.

colleen said...

Did you take notes? Bring a tape recorder? Getting family stories like Norma's is priceless! Maybe you and she can write letters.

Those cookies look yummy and are making me smile.

bluemountainmama said...

colleen- yes, we did write things down and my sister recorded her on a digital recorder. we already have recordings of my grandmother from before she died, and will add these to the collection.

motherpie and just being me- good to hear from you and thanks for stopping by!

Rosie said...

Wonderful story, BMM. Norma sounds wonderful! The stories are so important. Get them while you can!

I agree...too much lack of manners on both sides of the coin. People need to learn how to behave!

Jenny said...

So glad to know you and your sister took the time to do this. A treasure trove indeed!