Carolyn’s Online Magazine
The WordPress daily writing prompt for Thursday, January 22, 2015 is Fireside Chat: What person whom you don’t know very well in real life would you like to have over for a long chat in which they tell you their life story?
It’s said we don’t really know anyone, even those closest to us—our parents and our siblings.
My older sister and I didn’t really know our Grandparents or our Mother. We’d both asked our Mother what it was like for her during her growing up years. She never spoke to us about those years until she reached 70 and I began to ask again.
“Who’d want to know? Who would be interested?”
“Your daughters would.”
And she began to share. But, unfortunately, she only shared sparingly and she passed on before we could learn much.
Nancy and I lived with our grandparents most of the first decade of our lives. We garnered nothing about their background until I began doing genealogy. And a fascinating story they could have shared.
It’s also said that even two siblings growing up in the same home have different experiences.
With this in mind, one fireside chat I’d like to have is with my older sister, Nancy.
This morning, before checking my email and discovering the WordPress prompt, I’d gathered folders that contained notes on conversations I’ve had with Nancy through the years. I wanted to review them, type information on our common background, and share them with her, hoping she could add to them.
Once done it would be nice to have her visit while snowflakes float gently outdoors and a glowing fire fills the fireplace. We could share the memories held within the folders, filling in gaps and perhaps recalling others we’d not yet pulled forth. We could consider the differences in our childhoods, see how we’ve grown into the people we are today.
For now, perhaps I could share some of the happier memories written in those files.
Nancy recalls simple things of a lifestyle gone by. She recalls smells: of the furnace when our Grandfather stoked it, of homemade doughnuts made by our Grandmother. I recall the pleasant scent of our Grandfather’s pipe when he relaxed after coming home from work, and the smell of leaves burning at the roadside in the autumn.
We both remember Grandma sitting on a rock at the beach while we entertained ourselves on the rocks, in the sand, and in the water. Her sewing—we were the best dressed kids in the neighborhood, Nancy said. She also recalls that our Grandmother always walked out of the house looking all put together—wearing makeup and jewelry. She had beautiful eyes and hair. Our Grandmother also read to us.
We both found pleasure in the smell of salt air from the sea marshes as we journeyed to the beach on the bus. We both also recall with pleasure the sounds of milk bottles clanking and the ice man cutting ice for delivery to our ice box. We recall the sight of lace curtains nailed on frames to dry and laundry drying on the clothes line.
I remember fondly believing in Jack Frost, because, while sitting on my mother’s lap in a rocking chair by the window, I could see him paint ice crystals in beautiful patterns. I also recall gathering dandelions, splitting their stems, and sticking them in water or making dandelion chain necklaces.
Nancy adored our Mother, who worked or was going to school across the state line. “None of my friend’s mothers were as beautiful as she was. She’d be home on weekends , sitting by the window painting her nails red.” Nancy watched our Grandmother take a white plastic thing and wrap her pure white hair around it (making a bun).
Nancy remembers seeing our Mother pick up snakes from under the clothesline and tossing them into the woods behind the apartments where we lived after she returned home. “I thought she was the bravest person in the world. She wasn’t afraid.”
Are these memories important? Perhaps, and perhaps not. But they are to us because they indicate a bond we have that no one else in the world has. We were the only two siblings who grew up together in whichever household we lived in. Sharing these memories brings us to know each other better as persons now that we are in our golden years.
Perhaps our memories will stir your memories. Perhaps they will give a glimpse into the past to current generations who might ask What’s an ice box?
And just, perhaps, pausing to peek at the past will provide a better handle to what’s coming in the future. Perhaps.
ADDITIONAL READING ON CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS: