Passing on the keys
As families grow and age, it becomes more important to consider how to keep the inter-generational connections strong. When a grandparent or parent dies, those remaining must find a way to keep traditions, rituals and customs alive. People pass along their legacies in many ways – wealth, belongings, values and more personal things, like photographs, diaries and recipes. It is left to us the living to keep the memories going that accompany these valuables.
In considering and researching this article, I found very little written about passing along legacies other than wealth and resources. I began to think about my family, and realized that we did not talk about things in terms of legacies, but the legacies were passed along nonetheless. In particular, my Grandmother’s legacy of love comes to mind.
A Legacy of Love
Grandmother was a traditional, rural homemaker. She was born near the turn of the century and married late in life. She had one child, my father, and became widowed at an early age – around age 50. She lived to be 84, even outliving her only son, who died at about the same age as his father.
Being a traditional woman from the country, she did not know much about the business end of the household. Her role had always been to take care of the home. She was famous for her homemade biscuits, pies, cakes, the best gravy and most anything else she made. Everything tasted different when she made it – I think it was the TLC she added.
Grandmother also made my clothes until I was in about the 7th grade. I did not understand it at the time, but her motives for sewing and cooking for us were the purest possible – it was how she showed her love. I guess I just thought that was what she was supposed to do (though my other grandmother, Granny, did not). It didn’t dawn on me until I was older that sharing her love in this way was her legacy.
I would not want Grandmother to know this, but none of us cook very well – or sew. Out of four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, not one of us can make homemade biscuits, cakes or pies. Occasionally, one of us will upload a photo on Facebook with a post about our latest culinary feat, and we always comment that Grandmother would be proud or laughing or something. There is always a reference to Grandmother – her legacy of sharing love through food is certainly carried on, although the quality will never be the same.
Sharing and Remembering
Every holiday that we are together as a family, we talk about Grandmother. I always cry, as I am now, because I still miss her so very much – and I have always been one who cries when I am sad – or happy – or frustrated – or … Most references to our childhood include Grandmother – even more so than my parents. And many of those references are about specific foods she made for us – lemon cake and homemade biscuits being the most frequently referenced.
The impact she had on us is astounding. My mother reminds me of that every time my Grandmother’s name is mentioned. Even though Grandmother is not my mother’s mother, she had a major influence on her life, also – more than her own mother. She misses and loves her as much as any of us.
Unfortunately, we do not have any recipes from Grandmother. I don’t know if she had written recipes, but it would be so nice to attempt to make the lemon cake or biscuits now. We have and do attempt to make other things, but not those.
Keeping the Legacy Alive
If I could do things differently, we would have gotten Grandmother to write things down for us. I can see her handwriting in my mind now – she always had a pencil and a lined writing pad by the phone in the kitchen. She gladly would have shared her recipes with us.
Think about your life. Who are your elders? What legacy do they have to share with you, your children or other relatives? Are there systems in place to keep the legacy alive?
Many elders are now making video recordings of their life stories. Others pass along diaries or photographs or scrapbooks. We have my Grandmother’s family bible that has the family tree and all of her keepsakes from over the years that got stored in the good book. We also have some photographs, although those were not as plentiful in her day.
I have framed baby pictures that she had of me in her bedroom; I absolutely cherish those. There is one in particular that I get a kick out of. I had very short, very crooked bangs that she probably cut especially for the school pictures. In all of my younger school photos, I was wearing something that she made for me – usually a dress. Seeing those pictures warms my heart all these years later – sweet reminders of my beloved Grandmother.
Do you have photos and/or know where to find these and other special items? If not, ask your older loved ones about these things. Explain that you want to keep and cherish her/his legacy and remember them forever. Get your elders to tell you about their lives – you might learn things you don’t know about them. Spend as much time as you can with them, and let them know how much you appreciate being with them – creating memories.
Perry, Ellen. "Passing on Values to the Next Generation." A Family’s Guide to Wealth: Insights from Thought Leaders and Pioneers. Http://genspring.com. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Tanumihardja, Pat. "How to Tell Your Family's Story Through Food." Spoonful. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.