Oral Histories and Grandparents

J Jordan
July 21, 2010

Do you ever wonder what you were like as a child? Chances are, if you have any family at all, they've spent most of your life telling you just how cute, sweet or wild you were when you were growing up. Remember when you cut off all your hair? Remember when you let the dog jump out the car window? Remember when you drew fifty smiley faces on the walls? If it's a grandparent telling the tales, however, they often take on a softer, more nostalgic quality. There may be some moral dispensed with each anecdote, but grandparents -- and all of us, really -- tell stories of our youth to remind themselves what it was like to be young.

Grandma and Grandpa's tales, tall or otherwise, also tell us what life was really like when we were kids. Often that life was easier, simpler, slower, but not necessarily better. There was amusement to be found playing with lightning bugs, not text messages. Such stories are often mixed with a healthy dose of humor, and sometimes a bit of embarrassment. But, from the grandparent point of view, all was right in the world, or would be soon enough. Because, there is yet something else we gain from stories told by a generation completely removed from ours: perspective.

It's often hard to remember what it was like to be a child because we are now the parents. It is hard to do anything more than sympathize with our own parents at times, especially tough times. Grandparents and their stories remind us that things will change, they will improve, and that we will succeed. We fell, but we got back up, and they were there to see that. That these stories are told and survive is, perhaps, because our grandparents changed, improved and succeeded as well. After all, every story says something about the person telling it, too. They grew old as we grew up, at least from our perspective. But from their point of view, every baby step we took was one in the right direction and one they were a part of, that they could be proud of.

Most cultures around the world have a very strong oral tradition of sharing information, religion and history. Storytelling is a way of keeping these things alive and vibrant within a community and in perpetuity for generations. The stories our grandparents tell us, about us, are really the same thing. Whether they're stories about our first steps, our first fights or our first dates, they're telling the story of our lives -- and our lives together.

After hearing certain stories about silly things mommy did as a child for the thousandth time, we may get annoyed or bored with ourselves at that age, and we may stop seeing these stories as gifts; but, that's what they are -- a story is something shared between two people who care about each other. And, really, stories are the gifts that keep on giving. After all, knowing what it was like to be a child can help us remember stories about the experiences of our own children... and grandchildren.

Trust me, there will be the day you tell your grandchildren -- your children's children, if you can believe it -- that silly story about some simple thing you did as a kid. By doing so you'll be keeping the past alive, keeping the memory of your grandparents alive, as you create new memories with your own grandkids. It's hard to think that some day we'll be the ones with the gray hair sitting there watching our grandkids make history, one little moment at a time. And later? Oh, the stories we'll tell. 


From the Parents

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