How Did You Live, Way Back Then?

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I’ve always been fascinated by the stories my family members have told me. I’m fortunate to have always had a curious mind, even as a child. I asked my granny about her wedding day in 1916 and heard the story from her own mouth. Sitting on her bed next to her old treadle sewing machine, she told me about being married off at the age of 16 to a man she didn’t know and certainly didn’t want to marry. But despite all the obstacles and the fact that he was twice her age, she raised 14 children, two of them her grandchildren in the backwoods of Oklahoma during the Great Depression. Now that’s a story I treasure.

What stories have your own people told you that leave you amazed?

Our family stories give us a connection to our roots — to the people we are made of — who worked to make a better life for themselves and their children. They are what we are made of. That story that granny told me reminds me of how good we have it today. Even when I was raising my own three and was tempted to whine about the laundry, the dishes, the seemingly never ending work; I’d remember what my granny went through to raise her large brood.

I’d think about hand-washing diapers and raising animals and a garden to feed my kids. Sometimes the weather was so cold those diapers would freeze on the line. I’d think about her rented shack where they wallpapered the holes in the walls with newspaper to keep the snow out of the house.

What did I have to whine about? I had a washing machine, a dishwasher and so many things that made my life easier. My granny didn’t. I didn’t lose a son from a hair-triggered shot gun. I didn’t lose another son to leukemia and have to take a bus for miles just to see him. My daughter didn’t contract tuberculosis and have to spend years in a sanatorium.

I thought and still think there must be a small part of her in me. I can get through what comes my way.

Remember the Past, Imagine the Future

Life has changed so dramatically for us, our children, grandchildren and all the generations that came after the great wars. Will our children ever know what the people they came from went through to just make a living? Will they know how brave our forefathers were to just get up every day and make a difference despite how tired or overwhelmed they were? Will they learn that perseverance pays off in the end and just because something is hard doesn’t mean you should quit? I think we’ve all grown a little soft. Don’t you?

I am so fortunate to still have my parents with me. I’ve taken more time to ask them about their childhood and how life was, way back when. I love the stories about hog killing time where neighbors met at my grandparents homestead once the weather started to freeze. They worked all day together and children also did their part. Daddy had to gather firewood to make a fire under the old cauldron so his mother could render the lard. The many hands made the work doable, enjoyable. The hams and bacon were smoked by my granddaddy in a smokehouse he built. That meat would see them through the winter.

Some of the stories my mother told me are funny and scary. Like when she did her best to get her twin sister to get on an old swing that swung over the creek.

“It will break,” my Aunt told my mama. “I don’t want to.”

“Awe, Sally, you just a chicken,” said mama. “It won’t break.”

I guess you know that it did, just as my then 11 year old aunt was dead-center over the creek.

What funny stories do you know about your parents and grandparents? If you wait too long, they will be gone for good.

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