(Over the next three days, we will share an edited version of Karen Smith’s homily from the January 10 service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett. (You can find parts 2 & 3 here and here))
A couple of months ago, our youngest son was home for one of his fly-by weekends, the kind of weekend in which kids come home to eat and sleep and visit their local friends, and oh yeah, their parents, too. As he was leaving, Baxter said to me, “You know, Mom, I think I’ve been gypped.” I thought about that for a second, about his:
music lessons, braces, travel soccer team and football booster club,
and I said “Really?”.
As it turned out, he wasn’t referring to stuff.
What Baxter meant was that his children, my grandchildren, would not have the opportunity to know their grandparents as well as he had known his. (If he had children tomorrow, I might see them graduate from college; any later than that, I might only make it to their high school graduation.) “Sorry, kid,” I said. “It’s just the luck of the draw.”
People often say that if you don’t know where you come from you won’t know where you are going. I prefer to think that if you don’t know where you come from, you won’t know who you are.
I began to think about the stories that I would want to tell my grandchildren, so that they might learn who they are. These stories would help them to better know their father, my son, and myself, as well as other people from our family whose influence can be felt through the generations.
My grandmother taught me how to knit, but she also tried to convince me that reading books from the public library would make me sick, because …….. you could never tell where they had been. When I was 6 I learned how to whistle, because my father did. I also learned how to swear like a sailor, because my father did. My mother just tried to save me from myself.
But how do I tell these stories? Do I write things down in chronological order or as random scraps of memory? Do I tell the same stories to a granddaughter as I would to a grandson? Would I change their content for a transgender child? How could these stories make any sense?
What would be their framework?
(Part 2 follows tomorrow, in which Karen explores this question more deeply with us. How might you begin to answer it for yourself?)