Family. What comes to mind when you hear this term?
For me, I think of all the generations that have paved the way before me leading up to the present generation. I think of how my family continues to grow more branches on its tree and the branches go wider as well as up. As children grow up and get married another limb is added to the great tree.
I thought it would be cool if I got to talk to some of the branches in my family ancestry. I was able to get four very different perspectives from my grandfather, you will see me refer to him instead as ‘pop pop’, my grandmother aka nana, my mom and my sister, Adi who just had a baby of her own.
Three generations. Four accounts. Four perspectives about life in the present.
I started with something easy, ‘what did you want to be when you grew up’? I was not expecting the variety of responses I received from this, however.
“Successful in whatever job I had.”My pop pop told me. “[I wanted to] Become a good manager and be respected by my peers and subordinates.”
“[I wanted to be] a nun.” Said my mom, “I was changing my name to Sister Marie St. Bernadette.” She continued. “As I got older, [I wanted to become] a Physical Education teacher then Physical Therapist.
“I wanted to be an architect.” My sister remarked then said, “I thought dad’s office was the coolest. I loved visiting R.I.S.D., [Rhode Island School of Design], and all the old buildings.”
Even while we go out walking today, she still is intrigued by the architecture of all the houses we go by. I find it amazing that after all these years, she is inquisitive about different types of structures and the material used. There is no doubt she is her father’s daughter.
“A wife and a mother. I love my house. I like to cook.” My Nana answered.
She said that was always what she wanted to be ever since she was little. She loves being a mother to her six children and now is a great-grandmother to her expanding number of great-grandchildren. She loves to serve all of us by cooking for us, giving us advice about life and living, being someone who is there if we need anything and she loves every other aspect of mothering even after her children they are grown and are children of their own.
This is a perfect transition though because the next question I asked was what advice each interviewee had for their children and future generations.
Nana’s advice was simple and to the point, “Enjoy it [Being a parent]. Love your kids. It goes by very fast, the first thing you know they don’t need you. Enjoy every minute of it.”
Next Adi responded that she has a book of advice she is going to give Eliana when she is older but gave one piece of advice for now.
“Save up enough so you do you not have to work your first year so you can take a maternity leave for a year.”
Mom said to “Delight in every age and stage. Never let the negative situations overpower the joy that is to behold.” She added, “Always have the Lord at the forefront, even if/when they walk away from him – make opportunities in camps, schools, concerts, to get the word and presence back into their lives.”
“Be honest and fair and don’t show partiality and love them – love God first, your wife second and then the children. Always teach them right from wrong. Reward good behavior. Always be there for them.” Pop pop advised.
The following question I asked was about living a happy and successful life. I asked them to tell me what they knew now that they did not know when they were in their early twenties.
“Marriage is 50/50 but if you want a really great marriage make sure it’s 40/60 and that you are the one that is giving more than you get. I have a husband who tells me every day how beautiful I am.”
Nana went on to say how she would argue with him about it but papa stands firm in what he knows to be true in his heart. His wife is still as beautiful today as he is fell for her.
Pop pop said, “Being more aware of God’s presence and the presence of the Holy Spirit and observing the holy spirit working in my life and in the lives of other people.”
This is what he realized later in life that he did not understand earlier on.
Adi said that in her life she saw how many opportunities she had given to her when she was in her early twenties that many people are not fortunate enough to have. Doors that were opened that she took for granted. She went on to say that when her daughter is older, she is going to make sure that Eliana takes the opportunities that push her forward such as internships starting in high school to gain experience and connections.
My mom responded to happy and successful tips she did not realize earlier as being,“Confidence in the Lord as my strength, directing my path, and being my peace.”
She went on to discuss how she needs to remember that every day, “I lacked confidence and found God as the source of strength.”
Another question I asked was something funny that their child or children did or said when they were little.
My niece, who was still very little, only a few months old, thought she was “singing along with Andrea Bocelli and her mouth was wide open and [the] noise was coming out and she truly thought she was singing along with him.”
My sister flashback to the scene, “all the sudden I look down and she looks very focused because she thinks she is singing along to the music.”
As I wrote this, I was laughing as I, myself thought of the scene.
My mom recalled her funniest memory of my siblings and I, as the car ride to school and the dialogue that went along with it.
“I think the cutest and memorable was the shout from the back seat of the car when driving the family to EC. “Swipture voose!”’
[Because as a child, I could not pronounce my “r’s”].
“Always redirecting and keeping us on task.” My mom said.
Another story she reminisced about was “when Aunt Sharon fell and looked injured. [Then I say,] “Can we just Pway!”
[Again with my Boston accent as I put my hands out in front of me to emphasize the importance of the request].
A third recollection she had was “getting the Christmas photos back and noticing Parker put his socks on his ears.”
Hearing my mom talk about these stories brought me back to when they happened and allowed me to relive those precious moments too.
I think my pop pop’s story was one of the funniest I got to hear, only because I had never heard it before.
“When I came home from work they would always run and hide and Sharon would put Bonnie in the close hamper in the bathroom and she would hide behind the sofa and she was easy to find and I would start shouting ‘where are they’ then I would go into the bathroom and start to move the clothes hamper around and I could feel the weight and I knew Bonnie was in the clothes hamper so I would keep yelling where are they and would turn the hamper upside-down gently and Sharon knowing that Bonnie was in the hamper, would be giggling hysterically, thinking that I didn’t know Bonnie was in the hamper.”
I was able to picture my mom in the hamper as her dad turned her upside-down and played with her.
The final question I asked was about the effect of the war on each of their lives. I made a note not to specify which war so they could tell me which one had the biggest impact on them.
First, I asked my pop pop since he is a navy veteran and fought in World War II.
“I saw first-hand the hurt that came to a family of one of my buddies when we sat on his front porch and a kid pulled up on his bicycle and delivered a telegram to my buddy’s dad. The telegram informed him that his son had been killed in Normandy, France.” He went on, “I served with many guys on submarines that went through the second world war. I personally witnessed the phycological trauma that had impacted them. They were my shipmates.”
My sister talked about a life-changing event that was not a war but was still significant to this Country, September 11, 2001.
“September 11th was the most impacting war event that affected me. I can tell you exactly where I was sitting and what paper I had in my hand when we heard that the two towers fell. We housed all the kids who couldn’t go home because they lived in the city and the bridges were closed.” She recalled about the “boys from Nicaragua who were already staying with us from the orphanage as well.”
We gave a full house a new definition.
“At the same time, it was horrifying because we had people trying to kill us on the other side of the world and that is when I really understood what race was. [Being on the] wrong side of race. It’s terrifying.”
She talked about how these other countries were allowing racism against us just because we were American.
Then my mom answered, “I don’t remember much other than the Vietnam protests when I was in kindergarten, we were sent home when J. F. Kennedy was assassinated that was the most memorable political disturbance.
It was a blast doing these interviews with my family and hearing the different life lessons and stories they had to share. It was a welcome trip down memory lane for all of us and it helped me get a more vast perspective on my own life and experiences as well as lessons I hope to pass down to my grandchildren someday.
Hopefully, this encourages you to go out and learn about your family history and take the time to see how they got the perspective that they have now. Walk in their shoes, so to speak.