from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven
For many of us, our lives are keyed to significant events, transitions, locales, or something that has importance to ourselves or to our families.
For me, the important events and episodes happened to be on a time-line by location: the places where my family resided over the years. I spent the first twenty-five years of my life in the city where I was born and raised. Afterward, a few years in a distant city, then on to another and still another, each invariably distant and different than before.
After I retired, I took the time to make notes on as many important events that I could recall, and keyed each to a geographic location. I gave each episode a title or sketched a brief outline that would stimulate my
memory to the place and help me to talk about it. My list began with city A: my preschool and school years (with several sub-headings because those times had been chaotic); the Great Depression, the first job, etc. City B: why I was there; the job; etc. I continued on to the next and the next.
When I finished my initial list of 'cities' or 'countries' and numbered them I found that I had more than two hundred events, episodes or time periods. I arranged them so that one followed the other as they had
occurred or were otherwise linked. That became my outline.
I took the list along when I visited my grandchildren (my daughter had briefed the family beforehand about Grandpa's list.) Evenings, relaxed at
the table after dinner, Grandson or Granddaughter would call out, for example, 'Grandpa! Number 67!' I made a big deal out of hauling the list from my back pocket, carefully unfolding it, locating the number and reading the title aloud. Then, on to chin-rubbing, head scratching, ceiling staring, and after enough 'C'mon, grandpa! Get with it!' from all directions I went into my act, narrating in words, tone, gestures, and body language the events of oft-told 'Number 67', or whatever number they had chosen.
They would listen, spellbound and cut in with comments and questions. To them, it was their family history and often, drama, and they really want to know. Invariably, the story was followed with reminiscences by
their Mom and Dad who added variations, details, interpretations from their memories, and spin off comparable events in their lives, often long into the wee hours.
Autobiography became living history-the occasion of the telling, itself, is now an event not to be forgotten-and the finest kind of intergenerational communication.
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