If you asked my mother about me, she’d tell you that I was a very energetic child. I was curious, constantly on the go, talked a lot, and wanted to figure out how everything worked. I was her second child. As soon as my younger sister and brother were born, my mother needed to find a way to keep me busy.
In the fifties, the internet or fidget spinners weren’t available to occupy me, but my grandparents lived just a couple hours away. That’s where I spent most of my childhood. Well, it seemed that way. To them, I was cute and adorable. I loved my time with my grandparents. The house was filled with multiple generations of Italians. They were immigrants, survivors of the Great Depression, World War I and II combat veterans, Prisoners of War, and housewives, and all of them were proud to be in the United States.
My world slowed down when I was surrounded by the older generation. I learned to stop talking and began to listen to their stories. I asked them questions about how they survived the Depression. My grandfather told me about his experiences as a soldier in the Italian Army and prisoner of the Germans during World War I. I watched how my grandmother and great-grandmother would get up before sunrise and wash the bed-sheets and have them on the clothesline as the sun peeked over the horizon. I can still smell the freshness of the fabric as I recall running through the clotheslines on my way to my grandfather’s garden.
Each meal was a feast and “Fresh from the Garden” was not a sticker on a prepackaged factory grown vegetable, but a huge tomato pulled from the vine by my grandfather. My visits were filled with family meals and some very special conversations with my aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Our Eighth Graders just finished individually interviewing someone about his or her life. Many of them spoke with grandparents and the elderly. Reading the interviews brought me back to my early years with my relatives. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from them. Their stories are still a part of me, and the lessons they taught me have made me a better person. This summer, I hope your children get some time to spend with their grandparents or elders. Encourage your children to slow down and ask their grandparents about their lives. There is a lot of wisdom to be found. You just have to take the time to ask and listen.