Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Bridging Generations with Intent
Just before Thanksgiving the blog Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror had a wonderful post called "Forging Links in the Chain of Memory - A Thought for Thanksgiving." It ruminates on a Thanksgiving dinner table with several generations of family. That dinner included an age spread of 14 months to 93 years. What struck me was that the 93 year had a grandmother born 3 months after Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. What a connection to the past!
I started to think of the possibilities that occur at intergenerational meals. My mind started whirling with all sorts of thoughts. Here they are:
For a long time now, I have considered the generational reach that each of us carries. That reach extends at least five generations. Ideally, we know our grandparents when we are children. We know our parents and of course our own generation (siblings, cousins). Then we have our own children (or nieces and nephews). Hopefully we will all get the chance to meet our grands as well.
Within the span of our lifetime we carry first hand knowledge of our grandparents that we can pass directly to our grandchildren. If traditions and ties are strong in your family that can then be passed on as oral history to the next generation.
Sometimes I like to think about the family members that my father knew as a child. My father lost both of his grandfathers early but his grandmothers were both alive when he was ten. I know that he had some great aunts and uncles that lived into their 90s which he kept in touch with. But I've never really stopped to sit down with my Dad and say, "Hey, who did you meet as a kid and what was your impression of them? What do you remember?"
Have you ever done that with your older family members? Try to catch their living memory of that connection to previous generations.
Another thought that crossed my mind when reading the blog post was what a wonderful opportunity to sit down to a multi-generational dinner. Not everyone has this opportunity either because distance separates them or they have lost loved ones.
I thought back to my own Thanksgiving dinners. They were not very multi-generational. Typically my Mom and us kids and maybe some other folks. Same thing when we went to our Dad's house. We did have many opportunities at family reunions thankfully.
Perhaps we should all start thinking about having multi-generation meals and celebrations. We should be more purposeful about it to ensure that the opportunities arise before the chance is gone.
Initiating the Young
My other thought about generational reach at the Thanksgiving table was about teaching children. Genealogists often talk about how to get kids interested in family history. They say to learn a foreign language well you need exposure to the language before age 12. Perhaps it's sort of the same situation with family history. Instead of forcing children to embrace family history perhaps we should simply be exposing them to family history. By planting the seed early, it will grow and mature as they become adults. That's how it happened with me.
We can be purposeful about creating multi-generational Thanksgiving meals or other celebrations. After we have gathered together we must be sure to take the next step and talk with the elders about the relatives who have passed that they remember first hand. By specifically taking the time to talk about those relatives in front of children, the children will then learn that family history is important. Years later when they start their own family they will remember these strong traditions and continue them.
A Final Thought
I'll end this post with the final words from Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror:
"Most of all, amidst all the feasting and rejoicing, take time to do something to forge another link in the chain of memory that binds us to generations past, so that you in turn will be linked in memory to generations yet to come"
Posted by Marian Pierre-Louis at 5:39 PM