Write about your loved ones as if they were dead.
How well do you remember your grandparents? Your parents? Are those memories maybe really only memories of photos from a photo album? Or are they real? How can you tell? What’s the difference anyway? Does it matter?
I love the memories I can, well, remember. My dad vacuuming the living room with the classical music absolutely blasting from the huge stereo speakers. My mother reading us letters from her grandparents while we were on the train going through Germany. My mother-in-law accidentally eating the decorative flowers on our dinner plates in South Africa.
Our brains are supposedly only using a fraction of their capacity. How come I can’t remember more? How come I can remember completely useless information so well, but I can’t remember what my grandmother was really like?
The best source for stories about those grandparents are usually their children or their family or friends. Ask them to tell you stories about your grandparents, they’re usually more than happy to.
Preserve the present for the future
But what about when our kids are older and want to know about our parents? My boys are now 7 and 9 and I have no idea what they’re remember from this period of their lives. I hope they remember their grandparents, but maybe they won’t. What can we do about it?
I’m no historian, but I thoroughly enjoy hearing stories about my family–especially the crazy ones (lots of those). I want to know about their personalities, to know where I came from, who I came from.
I’d like to dedicate this piece to my (alive and well!) mother-in-law. I want to make sure my kids know about her quirky habits and personality. Sure, they know her today, but what about in the future when she’s no longer around and they’re asking. I’ll just take a moment to remind them of today.
Is Deze Niet Schattig?
[Is this not adorable?] She occasionally sends us boxes from Holland filled with goodies for all of us. Clothes, books, and toys for the boys, clothing for me and my wife, even dog treats for our new dog. (Yes, we have perfectly good dog treats here … ) She sometimes sends my all-time favorite cheese: Old Amsterdam, an aged dream of a cheese I would physically fight someone for.
Her taste and style is remarkable. She’ll find a sweater for me that I would not have bought myself, but should have. I wouldn’t have bought it because I tend to always buy the same thing. She dares to be different. But she knows what I like–or might like. She’ll take that risk–she usually is right. She just has an eye for fashion and style.
But occasionally it’s just so wrong. It’s “fun” wrong, but it’s just hard to let go unnoticed–which is the focus of my loving post today. When you love someone unconditionally, you love all of them. You take their (so-called) weaknesses as funny, their quirks as personality traits. It’s all good.
You see, she has this fascination with garden gnomes. And garden animals. I can’t believe she actually paid good money for postage to send this beast across the Atlantic. It’s not worth the money she paid for it without the postage. It’s just a monstrosity.
Maybe I’m just fashion backward, but these loving faux animals belong along the paths of a miniature golf course or maybe one of those little Disneyland knock-off parks. But the really old, run down ones. Look at that thing. Are you supposed to paint it? It’s just so naked and white. Maybe if we had more of them they would look better as a family, a herd? (Don’t give her any ideas!)
We’ve told her that it’s OK for her to love these little porcelain creatures, but we have a tiny little backyard. We don’t have room for garden dwarves and their herds. She lives on a farm, she has real animals, don’t these cause psychological identity issues?
But she doesn’t listen. We’ve called her on it before (our lovely lamb is not the first … ) and she just looks away dreamily at the wretched beast and will say something like, “Ach, het is toch zo leuk!” [Ach, it’s really quite nice, isn’t it!]
But I never dwell on it. I don’t because I know she secretly gets a kick out of watching us squirm. She thinks it’s all a hoot and probably won’t stop until she can no longer make it on her own to the post office. In fact, I bet that won’t stop her either. She’ll find someone to make a special trip to the village post office to deliver an “urgent package.” Then half a world away a postman will trudge up our street lugging the overweight package on his shoulder, praying we’re home so he doesn’t have to come back yet again, and drop it on our doorstep and we’ll sign. Sign our names so that the next little goblin or elf or deer will be officially ours and we’ll feign shock and horror and laugh and wonder if it will ever end.
Of course it will end someday and that day will be a sad one. Which is why today is a beautiful and joyous day … garden lamb and all.