Two gone in less than a month, two remaining, and I the only member of the next generation. I look at the five that people the generation following my own, young and vibrant, yet always so faithful to follow my bidding in looking after the elders. There is so much I want them to have, to know, to be. None of the five bear the family name as I am the last of it, some are one generation removed from it, some two. None remember the home place or the family that is leaving us in their youthful years. And so "being the keeper of memories", I wonder how to bring closure to a family line, how to make this youth understand who they are, from whence they have come. It is the reason I write the stories, the reason Sunday Afternoon Rocking was truly born.
And there is more I want them to know.
I wish they could for one moment in time, read my stories of the home place and feel it as it really was. I wish they could come crunching through the snow tucked around a simple country farmhouse and feel the gust of warm air from a fireplace as they swung open the door. I wish they could hear laughter of the aunts in the kitchen, smell the scents wafting from an old iron stove, and hear Pa stomping the snow from his boots as he carried in a fragrant cedar to be set up as a Christmas tree. I wish they could feel the cold floor on their bare feet and know how comforting it felt to sink into a deep feather bed, pull a grandmother's quilts around tightly and watch as Pa stoked to the old pot belly for the night. I wish they could see the beauty in old worn things, sit at a huge farm table lit by a kerosene lantern and savor food that was only there by the fruits of one's labors. I wish they could know what it was to sit on a long front porch and listen to the old timers tell of the times of those they considered old timers. I wish they could climb the tiny cramped stairs to an attic and pore over the photographs of ancestors of a hundred years ago and more.
I wish they could see and smell and hear all that I once did, and still do in memory. But more than that, I want them to know. Who our family is, was. I want them to hear the family quibbling over "who paid the last odd penny" of a flower bill when the family had sent those. Those quibbles were my first understanding of how deeply honest the family was. I want them to see four aunts each and every birthday, each and every holiday distributing flowers to the family graves. That sight was what taught me a family honored the past. I want them to see the clippings of presidents my grandfather pasted to his kitchen walls. That tribute was my first understanding of how deeply patriotic the family was. I want them to realize that for over eighty years, until the last known cousin had dropped out of sight or passed away, the family kept touch with a branch that moved out west early in the last century. Family ties were not easily let go of or forgotten. I want them to hear an aunt saying "Jobs are hard to come by, better hang on", another saying, "Have a little pride in yourself", a grandfather saying "Keep your wagon in the clear", and my father saying "Honesty is the best policy". Those adages have haunted me all of my life, and more than a few times made a decision easier to make.I want these for our youth.
We were not a wealthy family, not a well-educated family. The family lived frugally and simply, often more simply than even necessary. It was not a family that adapted much to change, or took up with the latest fads. It was a family that prided itself on a work ethic, practicality and simplicity. In short, it was representative of the many many farm families that were the "salt of the earth" and the strength of a nation. Pa always said his family was "tough as pine knots", and I figure they were, and not much different from the many families that peopled this nation early in the last century and seeded the generations to follow.
Those of us who are blessed with the memories of those who came before, those of us who are the "keepers", have a tremendous responsibility. Our youth does not know of the "salt" or the "strength" they spring from unless we tell them, and in doing so, perhaps it will pass on, and keep our families "tough" as the proverbial pine knots, our nation strong as an ancient tree unbending in the winds.
Just a thought,
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