Sisters, And The Stories They Tell

So I guess Lil’Sis doesn’t like her nick – henceforth she shall be known as Lexi. There, got that out-of-the-way.

I’ve talked about my sister, there is one thing I have not written of yet; the fact is that one of the reasons I decided to blog at all was because of something she said to me last summer of 2012. She said “write this down, I want my girls to know these stories and to know about their family.” She was referring to who they were, when they lived, what their stories were. She mentioned it to me again yesterday.

I began this blog for a few reasons, but it was that conversation I had in mind when I created my WordPress account. I wanted to tell the story of my time with Tim, but Tim than was still alive. I created that account, and two weeks or so later he died.

The focus than shifted, and almost a week after his death I began to write – beginning first with the page “The Prologue.  Those first posts are about my grief, loss and all from a journal I’d written in those last 2 years of Tim’s life.

Here I am today, more than 5 months later, and I am ready to begin to get back to more of those family stories. I need to gather it in some way and set it forth, as a chronicle of who we are and who we came from. But how does one begin that sort of thing?

That is what I have struggled with. For me the writing is always about … “how do I begin. WHERE do I begin”. I know in practice once started I often end up moving the beginning somewhere else, or sometimes scrapping it all together. But I have to atleast start where I think the beginning is; as I write sometimes that changes.

In this story, the story of our family, I find myself caught all up in the details. I believe that is my problem. Also, I’m too caught up in the genealogical aspect. However, I have come to realize that maybe the beginning right now should be the beginning of where my knowledge begins. Those first stories of our families passage to North America are dynamic, however to begin I must begin I believe with what I knew of my family when I was growing up. I fear that I may lose them if I concentrate on these new discovery’s of who those first ancestors were, going back to the very beginnings.

I need to document those memories I have of these people I knew, and knew of, before they slip away all together. The Story of Us – The Grandparents, the Great Grandparents, the Great Great Aunts and Uncles, and all that.

One of my favourite tales of our family I learned after Grandma D died. It is about them getting electricity down at the farm – where Grandma grew up. One night I guess the two oldest, Grandma and Aunt Bea, where teasing their younger sisters and they’re proceeding to back out of the bedroom whilst holding up the lantern and saying “I’m taking the light away…I’m taking the light way”. If I remember correctly they were telling ghost stories and the younger ones were terrified. So those two older sisters are backing out of the room with the lantern, and walk right backwards into one of the large holes that had been opened in the floor to wire up the house for electricity.

I first heard this story after the wake for Grandma, back at the farm. It is one of my favourite memories because it was the first story I remembered hearing of who she was as a young girl – to me she was an old woman. That storytelling at wakes is a family tradition. I’ve found out so much, such different things, at those family gatherings.

I learned that night of Grandma back when that spark of youth was brighter. As a young woman I learned she was a vibrant, dynamic, feminist with a lively spirit and a penitent for hard work as much as for fun. As a young girl I now know she was clever and liked to pull pranks, all of them looked up to her for guidance; she was always a natural leader. Even Aunt Bea I know looked up to her, and she was the oldest. I learned that Grandma would take all her sisters old clothes and turn them into things that ONLY she would and could wear; she created some fabulous outfits. I also know she was apparently never embarrassed.

To sum up Grandma is hard – she was an open-minded, diverse, woman of strength. She was rare, and wise and believed in UFO’s. She went to church every Sunday. Every Sunday we’d be sitting at the table having breakfast. Our house was situated right next door, and through the open window at the side of this large bay window Grandma would wave and say “I’m off to church now”. Mom’s like, “that’s great Mom”. Even though our Mom was at one time a Sunday school teacher, she hated (for some reason) the new priest at their Anglican Church, so we never went. Plus I one Sunday came home from church with Grandma when I was 7 or 8 and told Mom she was going to hell because she didn’t go to church. So that was the last of going to church with Grandma.

Mom believed in God and we talked about our beliefs all the time. She told us stories and had no problem with Christianity, Anglican’s or otherwise, she just didn’t feel there was any need to go to church. God is in the details of life, not only accessible within the walls of a particular structure. And I guess she wanted to find her own way, and she wanted that for us as well. Find God on your own, and the spirit of that will always live inside you and no one can take it away.

These stories permeate and blend together for me sometimes, so trying to untangle them and tell of them, helps to give them to my nieces in a way they can remember and share. We lived these memories, so I want to make them come alive and speak to their souls. I want to tell them to “carry these things with you, and you will never go wrong – you will find your way, even in the dark.”

I need to tell these stories, for me as much as for Lexi, and her girls, or for the future generations sake. More than that, I need them myself now. They are that lantern in the dark as I stumble my way backwards out of this darkened room. I need the light those stories cast to help me, guide me, even just make me laugh and banish the darkness altogether.

I was thinking of stories last night before I went to bed, thinking about stories that are so inviting that you get lost inside them and you forget about your current “woe is me’s”.

Currently I’m reading one of those I think – Annette Vallon: A Novel of the French Revolution, by James Tipton. The main character, Annette, has just met a fictionalized version of William Wordsworth, the English poet. Last night I read this bit of dialogue said by Monsieur William, concerning the third task of a poet;

“it is not teaching, as I said; I apologize; it precedes that, for it is part of the art of composition: the task of memory, of course.

[sic]…you know the muses themselves are the daughters of Memory, in Greek Mythology.

[sic] Think what that must mean, according to the ancient Greeks, regarding the relationship of memory to inspiration, of how important it is.”

The second and first task of a Poet being imagination and perception.

I like that. We need imagination, perception and memory I think for all forms of writing; for how else could I tell these stories effectively without them?

4 thoughts on “Sisters, And The Stories They Tell

  1. Funny, my older sister is just starting a similar project, trying to track our family history on our mother’s side. They came from europe and surrounding area and b/c of WW2 got spread all over the place, some died in camps, etc. She’s doing it as a photography project, not literary. I’m excited to find out what she learns! Good luck with yours too. It will be so fulfilling. And the begnning will always change, as will the end, until you’re way down the line. Just write!! x


    1. That’s more or less why I changed the blogs theme…enough of the dickering with the design. So I decided to strip it clean and get down to it…;-)


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