This is a quote; “ The death of a parent means the death of possibility. All the words we thought we had time to say will go unsaid. All the family stories that should have been passed down will be lost forever.” Carolyn McSparren.
I read the above quote just the other day and it made me thoughtful, but also somewhat regretful. I have spent some time trying to remember all I can but there is much I have missed. Also, for a very amateur writer, trying to find words to write about feelings is tough.
My granddaughter has to write a page from a diary, written during WW2. I tried to relate a few actual happenings and feelings, but felt I had failed miserably. I was born the last day of 1933 so when trying to figure my age, it is usually more accurate to use the 1934 number. On December 7, 1941, I was still 6 yrs old but the memory is vivid. We often hear folks say they remember just exactly where they were and what they were doing on important days for our country.
How about this, do you remember where you were or what you wore or what you were doing the first time you met your spouse, your in laws, your college roomie, or in Dee’s case, the first time she laid eyes on her daughter..? I remember well the first time I ever saw Tony. I came close to telling him to kiss my royal, uh, foot!
I was a senior at UGA, in Athens. My roommate and I were home for the weekend so that she could have a birthday party for her boyfriend. She lived in Buckhead and I lived in Midtown. I didn’t have a date for the party but she insisted that I come and meet an older friend of the family who could act as my date. My dad dropped me off at her house and the old family friend was to give me a ride home. Everyone else had arrived before I did. I was told that my old “date” was in the breakfast room visiting with the old parents. Finally the hostess came over and said, “Well, he is not coming out so you have to go back to the breakfast room and meet him.” Thinking, I’ll get her back for this, I strolled to the back of the house and there sat Tony Thompson. He hardly spoke; rose about six inches off his chair, and continued chatting with his host. OK, fine with me, I turned around and walked back toward the living room before noticing that he was right behind me. That was on this day, 54 years ago today. He was pretty much somewhere close around for the next forty years. Oh, what did I wear? I had on a two piece, deep aqua, wool knit dress and black kid, high heel opera pumps.
Why was Tony so unlike himself that first time he met me? He swore he took one look at me and knew this was the girl he was going to marry and it scared him to death! Anyway, that was his story and he stuck to it. The man was 26 years old, had an MBA, and had spent two years in the Army, for heaven’s sake! I was 22 years old. My roomie had neglected to tell me that it was all the parents that were such close old friends.
When my kids and their Thompson cousins were growing up, one of their favorite things to do when we were all together, was to get Tony and his two older brothers to tell stories about growing up. In fact, I believe Dee may have taped some of them. [Note from Dee: nope, I wish…]
When I was growing up, Mother and her sisters had a huge group of stories that my cousins and I loved to hear. In fact, we knew them by heart. My dad had lots of stories too but he didn’t have his brothers around to remind him and fill in the details. Dee has helped me recall various details of stories I used to tell her.
Sometimes things happening to me or my family now remind me of stories I want to tell but have forgotten.
Last Sunday, friends invited our Russian houseguest and my grands to go out to Stone Mountain with them. It seems they have a Season’s Pass. Huh, you have to buy a ticket to climb the mountain? Just unbelievable! I was five or six the first time I walked up the mountain so that would be about 70 years ago. My dad insisted I wear my little rubber soled saddle oxfords because there is one place going up near the top where the granite is slick. No one in my family had tennis shoes and all the fancy ones were not even made back then. Again, it was a Sunday afternoon and out entire family went on the excursion. Now that was absolutely not the kind of walk my mother would take even though she was only about forty years old. She carried the Sunday paper etc and entertained herself, waiting in the car. I have no idea how long our climb took but do remember being tired and thirsty when we returned to the car. Mother may have had a bottle of water and she often carried a soapy washcloth in a Mason jar. Dang, no bottled water for each person, no hand sanitizer wipes, no high energy drinks, etc. I climbed Stone Mountain several times after that, as a teen, but never had to pay.
We didn't have all the water bottles and high tech things available now, but we improvised.
At some point, Dad went to the Army-Navy Store [don’t think that’s the exact name}where military surplus was sold. He bought several metal canteens, like soldiers carried in WW1. He and Mother gave them a good wash, probably scalded them, knowing my parents and their fear of germs. So at times we really did have water bottles.
Those same canteens were often filled with hot water, wrapped in a towel or cut up blanket, and placed in our beds on cold winter nights. Sometimes, the canteens were carried in the back seat of the car, wrapped, to warm our hands or feet during winter car trips. They did have one drawback though: they were prone to leaks, especially around the screw on caps.
Another thing Dad bought at that same store was solid wool army blankets. They were wonderfully warm and we used them for years. I still had one or two when I moved here but don’t know where they are now. One of those between a sheet and quilt was quite toasty. After I married, I went into one of those stores, in Augusta. They had the same type blankets but in a beautiful navy blue. I regretted not buying a couple for ten dollars each but they were gone when I went back.
I bet a lot of you don't realize that antibiotics were once considered "wonder drugs."
One needs to, perhaps, be reminded that before and during WW2 , we did not have antibiotics. It was toward the end of the forties that our family was treated with the new “wonder drugs”. Before that, we were treating various ailments with aspirin and rubbing alcohol and Vicks and salt water gargles for sore throats. Pneumonia was a killer. I remember when Dee came down with it [at age 7] and scared me badly. Her MD said not to be so frightened because it can be treated effectively now. I remember the story of my grandmother sitting up all night holding her baby daughter, in front of a fire, placing hot cloths on the child’s chest, trying to get the congestion to break up, and it finally did. (Though my grandparents were wealthy by the standards of their times, a good mother still cared for her sick child.)
Kind of funny now, but there were all kinds of strange stories that made the rounds when the new drugs first came into wide use. One woman was said to have grown black hair on her chest. Another person had hair growing inside his mouth.
Not all families love stories like we do. A few years ago, Dee dated a man whose family I had known for a long time. In the course of their conversations, Dee realized that she knew lots more about Hal’s [not his real name] grandparents than Hal did. They were nice people, perfectly respected and loved in their small community. They owned and ran a coffee shop that normally closed after an early dinner hour. On high school football Friday nights, they reopened after the games so the kids had a place to congregate. They had kids of their own. I’ve always thought that was a good idea and good story. That family had other great stories but I wonder why they didn’t pass them down to their kids.
I know so many stories about my dad, and I can’t always remember if I’ve told them to Dee and Bruce or not.
My dad loved dancing. As a boy, in the north Georgia foothills, my dad played a mean fiddle and had a good time going to square dances. As luck would have it, someone from his little country church heard about it. He was asked to leave the church – or as he expressed it, was “kicked out.” Apparently it did not bother him very much because he always laughed when he told the story. Later, he taught school in the one room schoolhouse so guess the people were not much bothered by it either if they sent their children to him to teach. It was well known that he did not smoke or drink. When Dad first went to Philadelphia to pitch baseball for the Athletics, Connie Mack had him take dancing lessons and boxing. Daddy was 6ft 4inches tall and wore a size 13 D shoe. Mack wanted him to move more easily and gracefully. He did love to dance, especially Tap and kind of a half soft shoe. He taught me to dance by having me stand on his shoes while we twirled around.
I wish I was able to write about the great dogs we have owned. There was one, named Kaiser, that was about 9 months old when Bruce was born. So until the baby came, Kaiser was our baby. We carried him everywhere with us and pampered him royally. Well, when the baby was born, Tony said the dog had to be put outside. Shortly afterwards, I looked out in the back yard and watched Kaiser try to stand --- and he just could not. Alarmed, I called our vet. He asked if we’d put the dog out after the baby came home? Yes, we had. Well, I was told, the dog is having a nervous breakdown and you’ll have to either bring him back inside or give him away! As usual during a crisis, Tony was out of town. So I brought my dog inside, put the baby on the sofa next to him, and told him he had a baby to take care of. He had looked to be a black and white fox terrier when I brought him from the pound but as I gave him all the leftover milk in the baby bottles he continued to grow and grow, probably got to around 75 or 80 pounds. He seemed to understand his new job and adored the kids as long as he lived.
There are so many stories that I love to tell and that I have loved hearing, over and over, during my life. I hope this little blog will, in some way, help explain my feelings about storytelling and preserve my stories for my grandchildren. I also hope those of you reading this will be inspired to write your own family stories for your own grandchildren. With all the computer technology today, even voice-activated typing programs and video cameras being so common, there’s no reason not to leave a legacy of stories.