Monday, March 22, 2010

Generation After Generation

This past weekend we celebrated my grandmother's 80th birthday. It got me thinking how lucky Ryan is to have three of his four grandparents living, plus a great-grandmother, to boot. Herb's daughter recently lost her great-grandmother, at the age of 100. They had a very close relationship, and visited and spoke often, and Nettielee will be greatly missed by Rosemary and all of Nettielee's other great-grandchildren, as well as her grandchildren and children. What a wonderful blessing to have so many generations of family still connected.

Great-Grandma Nettielee's 100th birthday party, Rosemary at far right

Ryan with his great-grandmother, Auntie Lu, at her 80th birthday party

Life changes so fast that it's important to have a connection to the past. By the time Ryan is a teenager, no doubt there will be new technologies that I can't even comprehend that are a basic part of his life. He'll be comfortable with computers and gadgets in a way my mother can only dream of. And his great-grandmother will be there to remind him that in HER youth, not only were there no flat screen/plasma/3-D televisions, there wasn't even television. And when there was, it was in fuzzy black and white! She'll be able to tell him how exciting it was when their family bought their first car, or how she brought her lunch to school because there was no cafeteria, or how the milkman left the milk on the porch and when it froze the cream rose to the top. My mom will be able to tell him about working in a factory, and living on a dairy farm, and raising two kids with only one car - and only one bathroom! I can tell him about typing up school papers on a typewriter, or how exciting it was when we got our first microwave, or getting cable TV for the first time in my first apartment. Herb's parents can tell him about how they met in the USO, about performing with famous musicians and dancers, about taking the subway around the city for a nickel, about growing up in the city when you could ride your bike everywhere safely (even without a helmet).

When it's family telling these stories, history comes alive for children. Imagining your mom and dad as kids your age, imagining your grandparents growing up the same way you are - it's a wonderful experience for a child to picture him- or herself in the shoes of older generations. It gives him an appreciation for what he has, and hopefully an appreciation for how hard those who came before him worked to give him the advantages he and his generation have.

And someday, he'll be able to tell his children about how rough he had it growing up.

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