Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Advice Column


Dear me. Will answering this question make me a preacher? Or a prognosticator? A sage? A voice crying in the wilderness? Or will it brand me indelibly as a grumpy cross old lady wrapped up in my 'back in the day' cobwebs and shaking my finger at the back of everyone who avoids me as a bore?

Fortunately, my sample size of great grandmas doesn't include any incredible bores. There's hope for me yet.

First thing to remember, great grandchildren-to-be, is how fortunate we will be to get to know each marvelous and amazing it will be for me to have held in my arms, whispered nonsense to, held hands with and tickled toes of not just your mommies or daddies, but your grandmas or grandpas....and now YOU! I didn't know my great grandparents: I couldn't even tell you the names of all of them, though I do have photos of some of them on the walls of my guest room. These great grandparents only figure in a few tales left behind by my Granny, who had the urge to write them down so her grandkids would hear them, and your great grandpa Blake's grandpa who told dozens of stories to his grandsons...then they remembered the funniest ones and told their kids, too.

So...maybe that's my very first bit of advice, even if it's not the most important or most useful: Tell your children stories...even when they don't ask to hear them. Take the pictures, go to the cemeteries, pass on the traditions. Build your family brick by brick and connect your past to your present. You have roots, kids, and they reach deep in the country you have come from, or your folks came from. I learned to love your great grandfather because he told stories of his town, his parents, his farm, his history...funny stories full of character and idiosyncrasy. I learned to know your Great Grandpa's family from afar...before I came to Atchison county to join them and grow roots here myself. You come from a long line of storytellers...

Travel. Travel cheap when you're young and pack sandwiches and cereal and milk and your one hot meal a day is cheap Chinese or cheap Mexican. Stop for historical markers and local museums and national parks and pose one or more family members in every picture. Climb trails and skip stones on lakes and toss pebbles into creeks and pick up rocks as souvenirs.

Then, later, see the great cities, go to the theater, eat good food, stay in a room with a view. Spend whatever is necessary to qualify as a splurge....every once in a while. What was magical to me...your great grandma...may be antiquated to you....but, believe me, high class never goes out of style.

Sigh. All this fun will come at a cost. And that cost, lovely kids, is work. Your grandparents will tell you how very hard they worked in rain forest heat and bone chilling winds building greenhouses and loading they awoke and fed their animals in their pajamas and muck boots long before the sun rose. And your parents will tell you they spent summer day after summer day getting up early to fill thousands of pots with mix while their friends were sleeping in until nine.

And I'm here to tell that it's TRUE, all TRUE! Yes, your grandparents worked hard with us building our business and learning the burden of responsibility: for years after the fact, they would awake from dreams in which the steers were out of feed or the well had pumped dry because a hydrant was left on. Your parents are learning all about sweat equity down in that dirt shed; today they're paid only with an afternoon free to swim or read in the cool shade, but before you know it, they will be logging hours on a time card and saving for a college car. Great-grands, whatever your career and your livelihood, you will have learned the dignity of working with your hands, the reward of working side by side with your family, and earned the right to tell those 'way back when' stories to future generations.

Finally, exercise your minds as well as your hearts and hands. Read. Read fantasy and history, mystery and adventure. Escape, enrich, enjoy. Read your Bibles for instruction, for counsel, for comfort, for encouragement. Read the stories you loved to your children....The Poky Little Puppy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel, Hobo Dog, Winnie the Pooh. They are the common threads of your cultural heritage. My parents left a roomful of books three foot tall by 12 foot long by 6 foot wide, proof of a lifelong curiosity on a variety of subjects. Among these books are my grandfather's engineering text, my grandmother's poetry books, my father's Spanish dictionary and German Bible and my mother's botany book. I doubt that anyone else will ever read these volumes, but I will preserve them in hopes that you and your children will leaf through them, read the frontispieces and the notes in the margin, and comprehend the glorious debt of enrichment you owe your book loving ancestors.

Oh, great-grands...there is so much more! Play music...sing loud in church....plant lots of flowers.....use the right tools.....take lots of pictures.....and come play with your great grandparents often....

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