LESSONS FROM MY GRANDPARENTS
I was a curious child, always up in my grandparent’s attic or in the cedar chests and hall closets, taking down photos and mementos that had been hidden away long before I was born. I would go to my grandparents with these objects and ask for the stories behind them.
My grandmother shared with me how she grew up in mining camps in Arizona during the Great Depression. Both of my great uncles fought in WWII- one in the Navy the other in the Marines at Guadalcanal. My grandmother wanted so very badly to be in the W.A.V.E.S., the WWII era women’s Navy organization, but my great-grandmother refused her.
These inquisitive conversations led to so much more. My grandmother, a retired English teacher, also taught me how to make tortillas and chicken mole just like her mother taught her. She taught me how to sew- I didn’t know that if you wanted the work to look better, you should turn the garment inside out. She taught me how to act around company and in public, that I was always representing my family first. Finally, most importantly, people don’t sweat, animals do, we perspire.
My grandfather was a genius- an astronomy professor turned carpenter, who never hung up the telescope. I would be in the kitchen doing my homework and he would find me down there and a scientific calculator would suddenly materialize in his hands. And through his particular brand of Spanglish, he would explain gravitation pull, the mass of a cluster of stars, the orbital patterns of the moons of planets, and how this all tied into the earth and its place in the galaxy. I was 11.
These talks were inevitably salted with nuggets of manly knowledge: how to tell a joke, how to carry a 20 foot long 2x4, how to have a thick skin, how to value money, how guns operate and how to be responsible. He told me what it was like to grow up in Mexico, about hunting, shooting, and how to treat and care for animals.
In a week he taught me how to mix and lay cement, how to frame up a building, how to hammer effectively and use a square. The end result was a shed, which would prove to be invaluable to me. In the years after his death, I would discover that he had relocated trunks and cedar chests into this building, which supplied me with hours of digging and discoveries. Inside these trunks where photos and keepsakes from his childhood, belongings of my great-grandparents, his childhood toys and baby pictures from the 1930s. This provided me with a deeper connection with my grandfather and his parents, the great grandparents I never knew.
My grandparents gave me pride in knowing where I came from, in knowing there are heroes in my blood. They gave me skills and values to live by to be a better and more useful young man. I was able to listen to them, harness those stories and experiences and they invested in me several lifetimes worth of learning.
Now that I am 24 and only my maternal grandmother is alive out of my grandparents, I treasure even more those talks I got to have with my grandparents. I was privileged, not in the sense of vast wealth or status but by being in a family who spoke openly and actively, treating me and speaking to me like an adult and imbuing me with pride and knowledge far beyond my years. These experiences in my own family showed me that learning from those with greater experience than me is a necessary part of my life.
History has always been a part of my life, collecting pieces of stories, re-telling them to whomever would listen. At a young age, I knew the value of antiques. When I was 14, I graduated to collecting military antiques and researching the stories behind them. When I was 21, I published a pictorial history of a nearby small town. At 22, I forged a friendship with a little known collector and since June of 2013 have been taking steps to take his collection public. I have found a way to share the history I have been carrying with me. I have been involved in so many amazing events, met so many incredible people and have researched and told so many amazing stories because of ALM.
In a final sign from the cosmos, I was hired on at The History Project as a history concierge. This position allows me to help people tell their history, assist them in sharing the story of their lives through the THP platform. It is incredibly rewarding to actively help people preserve their history.
My family gave me the foundation to go out into the world and learn and save the memories of those who have come before. To learn from people who led lives that only they could lead.
To ask questions.
Be their witness.
Thank you to Dylan Almendral for contributing this article.
ABOUT THE HISTORY PROJECT
The History Project empowers families to connect artifacts and memories across media to build experiential stories that transcend generations. The History Project offers a set of mobile and online tools to intelligently collect, beautifully curate and delightfully collaborate in building your personal life story. Preserve and relive the memories that matter most through The History Project. For more details visit www.thehistoryproject.com.