Sunday, May 6, 2012

family histories

To be honest, I suspect my mother is going to kill me for this page. Or worse, tell me that I'm using the wrong picture and mis-remembering my history.

I know, the irony... I'm more worried about mistelling the story than the fact that my mom is probably not going to be please with me sharing it in the first place. But I think it's a story worth telling and since there are no names and everyone in the story, aside from my mom and I, is dead... I think that it's safe to tell the basics of it.

grote oma
edited update: my oma was 5 when her mother left and the black and white picture is of my other grote oma (on my opa's side of the family)

You see, I have mixed feelings about how to tell a story like this. Because we have 2 different versions and opinions of the situation, it becomes hard to find the truth. And honestly, in all likelihood, the truth is that both women recall and lived this story differently. Their truths are different.

I see, in the story, how important it is to try to see the events from the lens of the modern world which is more tolerant of the need for individual happiness and autonomy AND the historical lens which would see this act as explosive and taboo. 

On one hand this is the story of a woman who left her husband at a time when leaving your husband was unheard of. It was an embarassment and, as is the case in most situations of divorce, ripe for bitter feelings, tension, misunderstandings, etc. We don't know why she left. We weren't part of the marriage. And yes, I can understand why a young girl would feel so betrayed by a mother's choice to tear her family apart, even while I can respect the need to leave if it wasn't working.

I can also see how this is a story of an act that felt unforgiveable to my grandmother. I can see how it formed my grandmother into a different women and why the times would make her more likely to lie about the situation then to tell the truth.

And then, closer to home, I can see the impact this has had on several generations of women. I can see how it has touched my own mother. One of the greatest blessings in my life has been my grandmother. She is amazing. She is one of my most favourite persons. And my mother never had her own grandmother. She never had the kooky lady who taught her to chicken dance or love jewelry or secondhand stores. She never had someone make jello just for her or make handmade sweaters. She missed out on all of these things. But then again, she was here in Canada and her grandmother was in Holland, maybe she would have never known these things anyways. 

In the end, their stories are my story because this is the legacy that has informed much of my life. And this is the legacy that I will not continue, no matter how far away my mother is, no matter how differently we can see the world sometimes.

I think it is super important to remember the good and the bad when recording a family narrative. The thing is, I'm not always sure how you go about doing it in a neutral way. I tried to do so on the page, but feel like so much of the story is missing. And inevitably, so much of the story has to remain missing because there is no one left to fill the gaps.

I love this hobby because it challenges me to remember the moment, be grateful for what I have, and reflect on the past that has shaped my own story.

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