Friday, 11 May 2007

Everyone has a story to tell

When we first moved from our lovely-place-in-the-country-which-I-miss, we had an elderly dog. City life was a shock to her system, and to mine in a way, because walking her became a bigger event than just opening the back door and wandering off into the woods.

One of the places we used to walk was a cemetery. It’s a very green cemetery, being nurtured and let go wild (if that's not a contradiction in terms) to reproduce a local habitat. As I used to wander around, especially as poor old Daisy became slower and slower, I used to look at the graves and wonder about the stories which could be told, and thought how sad it was that the majority wouldn’t be.

It was what prompted me to encourage my mother to put down some of her memories, but she ran out of steam after the first instalment. She is the only member of that generation left in our family so it seems important to record her thoughts and impressions of some quite memorable times. Since then I have been rummaging through old family photos and again this made me think of the stories behind them. Fortunately one of my sons has been talking to his grandmother about it too, and so she has started up once more.

People never think their own lives are in any way interesting but they are. My mother lived through WWII, and as soon as it ended in Europe, decided to join my father in Italy where he was serving in the army of occupation. If she’d asked permission she would never have been allowed …. Then about five years later she once again had to follow my father, this time to Africa and with two babies in tow, only to find he wasn’t where she thought he was. She doesn’t think she has anything of note to write about.

When we lived in Paris, I met a number of elderly women who had married into French families before the war. Some of them had the most fascinating things to relate to anyone who would sit down and listen, but whether they were ever recorded I don't know. It's truly a shame if not.

I’ve been to see the Anne Frank and You exhibition which is touring around. It’s main purpose is to encourage young people to think about tolerance, freedom and justice, but a secondary aim could be to encourage people to record their thoughts for posterity.

It may not seem important to make a record at the time, but it grows in importance as years pass, and has special significance for families. To some extent people are doing it in blogs, but will your children know where to find them?

[Inspired also by Lapis Ruber's biography]

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