Friday, June 27, 2008

What Aunt Ruby said happened that day was like this . . .

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.


Anonymous said...

There is no greater legacy to a family than a written history and old photos.I have many photos from my husband's and my family hanging in my 90-year-old home. And in today's techo world with video recording devices it makes it all that much better. A couple of years ago, my dad found some old "super 8's" he shot when I was about 10 years old. He showed them at Christmas and it was almost surreal to see my grandmother come to life in the film and see my mom and dad as my young parents. There were, of course, no voices on the super 8's. So, we could only imagine what the laughter and conversations were about, but it looked like a good family time! You are to be envied for having such a great storyteller in your family.
Mary Beth

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes! As a former professional genealogist (and one never ceases to be a genealogist), I know how important it is to capture those old stories. They may not be true, but there's usually a kernel of truth buried somewhere in them. And label your pictures! It breaks my heart to find family photo albums at flea markets, with no indication who anyone is. And finally, never, never throw out any family documents, letters, bibles, etc. Poll your family members to see if there's anyone who wants them--almost always there is. If there isn't, talk to your local historical or genealogical society, which may want to keep them. Please don't let this kind of history be lost!

Cait London said...

So true. Who are these people in the photographs? I seem to be the keeper of all family photos, those that go way back. They were dumped on me without explanation/identification. I keep them in a suitcase, because that's what insurance people recommended for stuff like that, something easy to grab in case of fire. I think of what has been lost, because no one can identify them. However, with a storyteller for a father, and listening closely as a child to everyone, I did "re-collect" a dab.