Our Story Begins:
Where Did You Come From?
That grainy, somewhat blurry photo you see up there was actually a catalyst for some interesting conversations during my recent vacation.
Yep. I said that right: vacation.
For the first time in a very, very long time I took two full weeks off and headed not to a country club, resort, beach or other place.
I went home.
Home for me is in the Midwest. Which brings me to the somewhat blurred and grainy picture you see up there. It’s not really blurry in-person, it’s a snapshot from a cell phone of a Super 8 film. For those of you too young to remember (and I’m only 45 so knock off the snickering you whipper-snappers!) Super 8 isn’t a film by JJ Abrams it’s a type of motion picture film.
When I was tiny, in the 1970’s this film came in cartridges, put into the side of a camera and it was silent for most people. My Dad had a camera and there are literally years and years worth of silent films chronicling the days of my very tender youth at the time.
When I went sifting through the reels of old films I realized that sitting behind me were two (and occasionally a 3rd) kids. They saw large red splotches on my arm and asked if that was what caused the massive scars on my arm. “Yes,” I told them. “A freak accident with a coffee pot caused me to get burned very badly on my body.” They asked if that was why I didn’t have hair on parts of my legs and why the scars covered my left arm. I told them, of course, it was.
There were films of my grandparents, my grandfather on my Dad’s side, and lots of holidays, snowstorms and a number of films from the US Bicentennial year.
They saw the film from that picture up there at South Dakota’s Flintstone Park and immediately said “I’ve been there! It still has those things!”
By coincidence we headed from my childhood home to South Dakota and spent a long time there.
With three of my four kids in tow we visited Custer, Hill City, Keystone and virtually every stomping ground from my childhood you can think of visiting.
The boys went exploring. Green grass and trees and mountains were in abundance.
So was conversation.
My sons in particular are realizing now that they spent a scant seven years with their mother. In reality, they might have 2 or 3 years worth of memories from those formative times when their brains were still forming the mechanism that is their complicated mind now. Having made a connection to my childhood and memories the time came to ask many, many questions about their own.
Not all of our years as a full family – Mom, Dad, twins and daughters – were the happiest. While they asked about their Mom’s crazy trips and excursions they asked about those embedded memories, the difficult and painful ones they cannot shake, too. Now that they’re getting older they want to know about the good and bad parts of their youths because they can see the good and bad parts of their personalities now, too. They asked about those and didn’t want sugar-coated answers.
This wasn’t to sully the memory of their mother or their childhood. Sure, there were days when we were so low we couldn’t see up. Sure, they had memories of terrible fights where their parents put them in another room or outside and hashed out their differences . . . loudly.
They also got to see and hear loving details about story times and vacation and stupid mistakes and tenderness.
The thing people who have not lost a Mom, or a Dad or a wife or husband don’t think about is tenderness. It’s a word that immediately is so complicated and so perfect. You miss the song that hits the radio causing your wife to take off her seat belt and jump up to kiss you on the cheek while you drive. You miss hairs standing on end on your neck as they touch you and a head on your shoulder. You miss tender moments.
But you re-live them, too.
My kids were simply wanting to know where they came from. It’s easy to know why . . . it also can help show them where they’re going.
What about you? Do you talk about your upbringing with your kids?