Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Blossoms on the Family Tree

My maternal grandfather Lloyd was a Methodist minister, serving mostly in Alabama. During the earlier part of the last century, times were hard and the pastor was often given produce and other useful things in lieu of a monetary salary.

As the story goes, one afternoon, my grandmother welcomed a church member into her home. The woman had brought a basket piled high with fresh strawberries from her garden. “I thought the children would enjoy them,” she said.
My grandmother Lloyd turned to my mother, Mary Lula, who was the middle child and was about five at the time. “Honey, take these into the kitchen and divide them into bowls for you, your brother and sister while this lady and I talk.” Mary Lula eagerly complied.

After the lady left, my grandmother entered the kitchen and found three bowls on the table. Two of the bowls contained one strawberry apiece. The third bowl, which was set before Mary Lula at the table was empty, but evidence of a strawberry feast was all over the child’s face in rosy splendor. 

“What have you done?” my grandmother asked.

“I ‘vided ‘em,” the child said.

Fortunately for Mary Lula, her mother had a sense of humor and a forgiving nature and this funny incident went down in the annals of family history.

Our grandchildren love to hear this story and many others like it, about their forebears. It makes their ancestors believable as people and gives the children a sense of who they are.

These days, many people are searching out their ancestors on various websites, tracing their family trees back several centuries, if they’re lucky. I have found out some fascinating facts in this way, but when I see the names on the screen before me, I can’t help but wonder what they were like as people. There are little hints, of course: the death of a child here, a marriage there, but I would love to have more. I want to know if there are any more “’Vided the strawberry” stories in my family tree. So as a gift to my grandchildren and future generations, I’m putting down all the stories I can remember. I want them to know that my daddy had perfect pitch and put himself through college by playing in the big dance bands. I want them to know that my mother was a Red Cross social worker during WWII who wrote letters home for injured soldiers.

I mentor a weekly writers’ group and a large percentage of them are writing memoirs. This is valuable, but I would stress that a person doesn’t have to be a skilled writer to save precious family stories for their children. Here are a few other ways:

1)    You can make a computer file of your memories, adding to it when the notion—and the memory--strikes you.

2)    You might be able to enlist a family member who would like to hear and write down these stories.

3)    Making an audio recording is easier than it has ever been these days and has the added benefit of being in your own voice.
One of the ancestry websites likes to stress that they can find “leaves” for your family tree. I like to think of these unique, irreplaceable stories as blossoms among those leaves, making a bouquet that is a gift for generations to come.

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