By Lonnie Cruse
Back in the day, my husband's grandparents, Dave and Mattie Cruse, lived and worked on a farm, along with their seven children. One night the family was startled to hear someone banging on their front door, yelling for help. They discovered Dave's step-brother, Jim, standing on the porch, gripping his overalls tightly and holding them away from his body as far as he could manage. Dave had walked home across the fields, crossing a fence or two, and somewhere along the way he picked up an unwanted hitchhiker . . . a snake. The snake was quickly disposed of, and Jim survived.
This event took place long before hubby or I were born. It's one of the family stories handed down to us through his Aunt Ruby. Aunt Ruby married one of Dave and Mattie's sons. The cousins, her nieces and nephews, gather at least a couple of times a year for a pot-luck chat session, and one of our favorite activities is to listen to her stories about the family and ask questions.
My father-in-law, may he rest in peace, could talk the ears off a donkey, repeating over and over stories about the family that took place usually before I was born. Like many older folks, he couldn't remember where he'd put down his last cigarette or what he'd had for breakfast, but he could quote in great detail things he did or his children did decades before. My lovely mother-in-law once asked me if I didn't get tired of hearing the same stories over and over. I assured her I enjoyed hearing them and was even jotting them down in a journal for my sons. My oldest son loves to read that journal.
Is there a family historian you enjoy hearing tell about the past? If so, I hope you are jotting down the stories now . . . while you still have time and opportunity. Once the family historians are gone, you'll wish you had done that. And your children will thank you for preserving whatever stories you can about grandparents or great-grandparents they didn't have a chance to meet. Dave and Mattie Cruse and their seven children, along with spouses of those who married, are all long gone. Aunt Ruby is the last survivor of that generation. Our last link to the family's past.
One more tip. Don't forget to write on the back of your pictures and get older relatives to help you do the same to pictures that might be left to you one day. This is one of my hubby's biggest complaints, un-labled pictures. Years ago I received a couple of albums that belonged to my mother, and many of them include people important to her, but I have no clue who they are. My oldest sister was able to fill in some of the gaps, and I'm thankful for that.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could invent a machine that would allow us to step into an old photograph and become part of the scene for a short time? I've always thought that would make a great science fiction short story or novel. Haven't gotten around to writting it, so feel free to steal my idea.
You may not be a writer, but writing down your family history is something the rest of your famiy will appreciate and you will be thankful you did when you had the chance. While the historians born before you are still around to fill in the gaps.