We all come from the past, and children ought to know what it was that went into their making, to know that life is a braided cord of humanity stretching from time long gone, and that it cannot be defined by the span of a single journey from diaper to shroud.Russell Baker
A few years ago, well before I started this blog, I had the brilliant idea to add a book called "The Story of a Lifetime" to my Christmas list. I had grand visions of filling out each section in excruciating detail. I figured I would create a legacy of information sharing for my children. It sounded great in theory. But the book sat on my shelf, gathering dust.
I'm not sure what made me look at it today. Perhaps it is the culmination of a series of events from over the past few months: a friend's son getting the all clear on his cancer diagnosis that he battled, and ultimately won or the medical issues and cancer scares of family and friends. Or perhaps it was simply the horrific, turbulent flight back from my recent business trip where I pondered my mortality while I white-knuckled the flight for the first 40 minutes while the plane bounced around like a puppet on a string from 30,000 feet in the air. Who knows. In any event, I took out the book intending to capture segments of my answers in this blog. This blog that I write for my children so they have a record of themselves, of their milestones, of their wit, humor and even a record of their tantrums.
I brushed the dust off the book and opened it to the first section titled Family Background.
Question: If your ancestors emigrated from another country, from where did they come? When? How did they come? Where did they settle and why?
My heart sank a little and I thought, Hmmm, Finland and Scotland, I think. Not sure when. Not sure how. Not sure where others settled except for my descendants from Finland on a farm in Wisconsin.
I flipped a few more pages...
Question:When and where was your mother born? Where did she grow up? What was her maiden name?
I thought, Yes! I know this one! Kalamazoo, Michigan; Cincinnati, Ohio;Maiden name? Check! I know that one too. I'm on a roll.
I looked at a few other questions in the Mother section.
Question: Tell about the family in which your mother grew up. Do you know what her childhood was like? Do you remember any stories she told you about it?
I thought, This is depressing. I mean, I know the basic facts- mother, father, two brothers, she was the youngest etc. I remember she was a dancer, particularly good at tap dancing and was even featured on TV once. She was raised Catholic and attended Catholic all girls schools. For all intents and purposes, she was a good Catholic girl, and told me once that she would feel guilty after she went to confession and forgot to tell the Priest about a sin. She would have the urge to go back and confess again as she was afraid she was going to Hell. But I don't know much more than that. I'm sure if I think hard enough, I may be able to remember a few more stories, but my window of opportunity to find out more closed when she died that October day 8 years ago.
Question: What memories do you have of your mother during your childhood?
Question: Describe your mother's work, both in and out of the home.
Question: Which of your mother's physical and personality characteristics did you inherit?
Question: Describe her best qualities.
Question: What is the most painful memory you have of her?
Question: If she is deceased, how and when did she die? Where is she buried?
I know all the answers to these questions. I can see her in me sometimes; when I look in the mirror; when I look at my hands and I remember her being the center of my universe during my early childhood.
Now a mother myself, my longing for my mother comes in waves. Sometimes when I least expect it. Now a mature woman, I wish I had the opportunity to know her not as my mother- but as a mother- as a woman. I have so many questions I would add to this book. Questions like:
What was your wedding day like?
What was the hardest part about being married?
How did you get through the tough times?
How did you know he was "The One"?
What was your pregnancy like?
Did you ever experience post partum depression?
What was your favorite movie? Favorite song? Favorite color?
How did you balance being a mom and going back to work?
What were you like in college?
Who was your first boyfriend? Your first kiss?
What kind of baby was I like? Was I difficult or easy?
What regrets do you have?
One thing I know for certain. When I leave this life, I want my kids to know me. Not just as their mom, but as a person.