Who Will Tell Family Stories?

Posted: December 8, 2013 in family, parenting
Tags: , , , , , ,

One of my father’s childhood friends stopped by his house recently while I was visiting. Listening to them talk about growing up together was so entertaining! I sat back and listened to each story that they told.  Knowing what life was like for my father as a child is fascinating to me.  He’s told me so many stories of how he and his brothers grew up in 40’s and 50’s in Mississippi.  I value each and every story I get from family as a timeless treasure.

The photo attached is one of my mom and her siblings.  I know a story about every person in it.  My uncle in the black shirt once told me a funny story about jumping off a moving truck in an attempt to impress girls as a youth.  My aunt next to him told me a story of how her husband forgot to play her usual numbers for the Minnesota lottery the one day her numbers were actually selected.  The lady in the middle is my mom, so of course I know everything about her.  My uncle in the suspenders shared with me how his dad (my granddad) broke him from smoking cigarettes.  My aunt in the red shirt shared about how she once had to discipline my mom for being bad.

So many entertaining stories that takes you back in time as you listen to them.  However, it sometimes makes me feel pretty bad about not having a son or daughter to share these stories with about my family. My cousins have kids, so they may attempt to share some things.  Although I have god kids and my lady has kids, they probably wouldn’t understand the dynamic of my family. Especially on my father’s side.  If you didn’t grow up around my family like my cousins and I did, then it would be hard to understand some of the inside jokes that come from the stories that they tell.  It’s almost like walking in on the middle of a movie.  You may figure some things out, but you’ll never have foundation that all good stories must have.

But, me not being able to pass things down is not the real tragedy.  The real tragedy is that I don’t think kids have an interest in hearing those type of stories. If it’s not about “Twilight,” a reality show, an Xbox game or something like that, then kids tend to tune grown people out after three minutes or so.

So, where will these stories go? Will they die with me?  

Unfortunately, I think that they will.  Talking to elders is a thing of the past.  Previous generations and how they live aren’t important in our society now.  They probably haven’t been in more than a decade.  At least not any more.  I’m not the only one who recognizes that fact either.

The cable network called AMC (once called American Movie Classics) changed their name because they wanted to get away from the classic and appeal to younger generations.  It’s why they now have programming like “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad.”  They know that very few want to watch old black and white movies today.  Do you know anyone under 40 years of age who can watch a black and white TV show/movie?

The United States is probably one of the only countries that doesn’t hold its elders in high regard.  In Asian countries, older people are revered for their experience and wisdom.  To sit with someone who has truly experienced life is an honor to most of them and other countries.  Here in the States, it’s considered a waste of time for some.  Kids don’t want to hear how things used to be.  They don’t care what life was like before cell phones and remote controls.  It doesn’t affect their lives so it has no place.

That’s so sad to me.  Storytelling is a lost art.  I used to enjoy sitting on the porch and talking to my grandmother about her days as a little girl.  I heard about how she had to work from the crack of dawn to sundown as a pre-teen.  I remember hearing that she didn’t have her first TV until she was in her 30’s.  She’s told me about how racism was rampant in Mississippi.  In fact, she just recently told me about how she cooked breakfast at her sister’s house for two of the three civil rights workers not too long before they were later murdered in Philadephia, MS.

Hearing how she lived gives me perspective on how I live.  Perspective is something we severely lack in society.  We can’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes because we don’t have to do so.  My generation doesn’t appear interested in sharing things with its kids.  In fact, my generation invented things to keep kids occupied so that we wouldn’t have to talk to them.  Why else would someone think of putting a DVD player in a vehicle?

How can a kid understand the privilege of having a car when he/she doesn’t even know that her grandma had to walk to school?

How can a kid appreciate having over 200 television stations when he/she doesn’t know that granddad only had four while growing up?

How can a kid value the time family spends together when everything promotes individualism (iPod/earbuds, cell phone, tablets).

As much as it pains me to say it, “cherishing our elders are a thing of the past.”  I honestly think that my generation (70’s babies) is the last one where a majority of us truly appreciate the stories we were told by those a generation above us.

It’s a shame, too.  Now that I’m 42 years old, I have lived life long enough to have stories to tell.  Some funny and some serious.  But, “who wants to hear them” is what I ponder.  The only people who will probably know about my stories are the ones who follow my blog.  The rest just don’t seem to care.

Am I wrong when I say that our elders are no longer relevant to a majority of young people?

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