Friday, June 21, 2013

A story coming back to life

Last year my Gran died.  This year, my Aunt died. And this could be part of her legacy.

When I tell my stories to families or for family audiences, I try to leave a message about keeping your family stories safe and sharing them so as not to lose them.  There are stories I know about my Grandad which I need to write down; some of my Gran's stories I have written down and told. My Auntie Gwyneth had a story to tell and she told it.  Well, she wrote it.  About 10 years ago she got cancer and wrote a short biography of her life.  One of the most poignant parts for me was her experience of living in Birmingham during World War Two when Birmingham, along with many other British towns such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Coventry and London were being flattened by bombs.  And the same things were happening in towns in Germany, bombs were flattening towns, bombs dropped by the Allied Forces.

When my aunt passed away, my cousin asked me to do the eulogy. All this happened pretty quickly. Gwyneth's passing, my being asked, preparing for it and doing it.  Gwyneth's life story was to be the basis of the eulogy, but there was more to Gwyneth than was written there.  She was a survivor, or many things. I collected stories from family they remembered, fun stories, stories with joy that showed her human side.  My cousin and I came up with a perfect eulogy, but I kept coming back to her self-penned life story.  All of the players of her early life are mostly gone.  My mother, Gwyneth's half sister, is still trucking and had some memories and experiences to share, and also has memories of the bombing even though she was very young.

Two weeks ago, as I was waiting to set up for the Afterschool program, the upper grades of the elementary school were doing their finishing immigration project.  And later, last week, I was at a school and there were photos of World War Two in the classroom and I shared some of the things I had read about Auntie Gwyneth's wartime experiences as a child. I also began talking to the teacher about immigration, prompted by some other photos and the project at my child's school.  I asked my cousin if I could share Aunties Gwyneth's story with the teacher and she was thrilled to share it. Then an idea hit me.  This is a primary source of both immigration to America and Canada, and wartime experiences. So my cousin and I have been writing to one another to make my Auntie Gwyneth's story into a book for school children who can learn from my Aunt's life.  This will be part of her legacy.  We are lucky that my Aunt wrote her stories down.

I encourage everyone reading this to have family members to write down their own stories, record the stories to save them for our younger generations.  Maybe this way a more personal past can help a global future of understanding.

If there are any teachers who might be interested in helping my cousin and I on my aunts book project, please get in touch with me.

Many thanks,