November 24, 2009

What I learned this weekend

There are a lot of things I want to do "before I die." (I put that in quotes because it's a bit overly-dramatic -- they're really just "things I want to do," period.)

The list ranges from the expensive and/or difficult (visit Australia and trek through the Outback, learn to speak a foreign language fluently) to the pretty-mundane (go canoeing with my husband, finish our wedding album).

Most people who know me know that I take my career pretty seriously, and, in the last six years, I've worked a LOT. Like, a lot. Which left room for little else. I started my "things to do before..." list about five years ago, with just over 20 to-dos. Until this year, I hadn't done any of them. :)

Then, about a year and a half ago, I started working with a different group in my company. I was still busy, but I suddenly had more time than I'd had in years. Time to remind my husband what I looked like in the daylight. Time to do what *I* wanted. I hardly knew what to do with myself.

So I decided to look at my list. I've started writing a series of children's books, I started this blog, I started volunteering at our local dog shelter.

It's been fantastic. Amazing, fulfilling and rewarding. Not to mention satisfying to start checking things off the list!

Something on the list that I'd been mulling over for years was this idea of writing down the stories of how my grandparents and parents (and my husband's) met, fell in love and grew in their marriages. There's been no divorce on either side of our family—they’ve all stayed married through good times and bad. I find that so amazing and inspiring, and I wanted to know their histories as well as what they consider to be the "secret" to their successful marriages.

So this past weekend, I grabbed our camcorder and made the trip up to where my parents and grandparents live, and made appointments to “interview” my grandparents.

They were surprisingly accommodating of my weird request (as my Grandma said, “You want me to talk? I’m there!”), and seemed pretty excited about the idea of reminiscing and sharing their stories.

I started out chatting with my grandparents on my father’s side, who have been married for 63 years and counting. (That's them above and just below on the right; in the second picture, I told them to smooch and Grandpa's nose went into Grandma's eye. Oops.)

They’re an affectionate couple, and they clearly still enjoy each other after all these years. My grandmother is lively and loud; my grandfather is more reserved with a dry sense of humor. Together, they were hysterical subjects, talking over each other and correcting each other as they told their stories.

I’d made a list of questions to ask (how did you first meet, what did you think about each other, when did you know you were in love, what was your wedding like, what were the best/hardest parts of being married, what makes a good marriage), and I was surprised by how few of them I had to ask--their story just flowed naturally.

They told me how they met (he came in the store where she was working and “would never ask me out!”) and how they fell in love (they wrote letters for months and months while he was working out west during WWII), and the stories just flowed—funny, emotional and fascinating. They’ve traveled all over the world, and I had a ball listening as they recounted 63 years’ worth of memories.

When it came time to interview my grandfather on my mother’s side (at left), I was a little more hesitant. Not because he isn’t a fascinating person—quite the contrary: He's a career Army vet who served during Korea and Vietnam, and he's just a great storyteller. I just wasn’t sure if this particular topic (how he fell in love with my late grandmother) would make him uncomfortable. It’s only been four years since my Grandma passed away, and I know he misses her deeply.

Still, he made it clear that he was game. (“I’ve been rehearsing,” he teased when I arrived at his condo.) And interviewing him was an absolute pleasure.

He told me all about how he’d met my grandmother (at a teen dance club, where they danced all the slow dances, and he let her dance the fast ones with other boys!) and their wedding (a huge affair put on by her Italian father, who “invited every Italian in the whole town”). It was a glimpse into their lives that I’d never gotten before, and it was wonderful.

All told, I have more than two hours’ worth of precious memories and stories now, preserved for eternity. It turned out so much better than I ever expected. I knew this before, but this just drove home the point that I have the most wonderful family on earth!

And I’m closer to checking something off my list! My parents and my husband’s family are next—I can’t wait. :)

What’s on your “to-do” list?

5 backtalk:

Stacey Beck said...

You have AWESOME grandparents! We enjoy them soooooo much at church and really treasure their stories. Great idea to get it on tape. Great to see you in church and get a hug! :)


Sad Panda said...

I love this. I think this is such a great idea, to "archive" in a way the growth of your family. It's wonderful!

As for my "to-do" list, I don't have too many items listed so far. Mostly because I've never taken too much time to think about it. But I know that I want to visit the UK at some point (England and Ireland, especially), and I want to see a live hockey game.

Anonymous said...

I think this was SUCH a good idea for you to do!! My "to do" list right now is just to be able to get out of bed, take a bath and wash my hair!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and your mom has been a great caretaker to me this week!! She's just all around great!!

wrestling kitties said...

(how did I miss this post earlier?!)

Those two are darling! That is great to interview your grandparents. Stuff like that you will never forget and they just love!

The biggest is that I NEED to go to Ireland and England. I feel like I want to live there. I also would love to have kids mainly because I am tired of cleaning all the time and cleaning services are expensive, get my masters in Recreational Therapy, get a tattoo, finish our wedding scrapbook (3 years and counting), do the bike to the bay for MS, own nearly every kitchen gadget ever made...I am well on my way with that one.

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