It was an early December evening and it was absolutely beautiful. The temperatures were in the high 40s that night. Mu husband and I were in the city to celebrate our cousin’s 30th birthday. It was just the two of us for a night out, so we decided to head in early. We just walked down the streets of Manhattan with not a care (well, a Mommy always thinks about her kids, but you know what I mean). The spring-like air made me feel rejuvenated as well.
In the midst of just being “us” and enjoying the night, my “Teacher Ear” (as I like to refer to being able to listen to a million things at once) caught a conversation between two girls. They were in their early 20s. It went something like this:
Friend 1: So, what are you doing for the holidays?
Friend 2: Ugh, I will be going to the island to spend time with my family. (“the island” is “Long Island”.)
Friend 1: I know! Me too. It is just so annoying,
Friend 2: I can’t stand listening to the same (expletive) stories over and over again. Old people are just soooo annoying!
The conversation then faded out. And my happy-go-lucky mood was temporarily put on hold. My heart hurt when I thought about those stories being annoying. And then it dawned on me: Unfortunately, I was like that when I was younger too. I felt a pang of guilt I almost cried right there.
When I was a little girl, I use to love to listen to my grandparents’ stories of their youth. My grandfather would talk about his days in the navy during World War II. He always would joke about how he wanted to go over seas and when they asked for volunteers, he tried to get a friend of his to go with him. The sergeant thought my grandfather’s friend was joking around and made the friend go and my grandfather stayed. Thus, my grandfather stayed on American soil during the war and helped to test things for the Navy.
My grandmother would speak (and still does) of the jobs she had in the city and how she loved going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for mass. She always talked about when the war ended and she and her friends walked at night with flashlights to a deli to get a newspaper.
I lived on these stories as a kid. They were always told to me. When I turned about 18, I thought that I knew everything about the world. I also came to be annoyed by the stories. Why did they have to tell them over and over again? I began to ignore the stories.
By the time I came to the realization that these stories were important and would be lost one day, my grandfather had already begun to rapidly lose his memory. He started to mix up the stories and forget people’s names. I would try to fill in the blanks with what I remembered but many of the parts of the stories were gone forever in the recesses of his mind.
I remember two Christmases before he passed, I sat next to him and asked him to tell me the stories of his childhood. He said he couldn’t remember but I gave him the beginnings of the stories that I remembered and he was able to tell a few of them. I wish I had recorded this.
I want to tell those two girls in the city one piece of advice: Listen to the stories. I know it can get annoying hearing it over, and over, and over, and over again. But I think there is a purpose to that. It is so that we don’t forget. For generations, stories have been passed down through word of mouth. We need those stories. They are the only link to our past.
As for that night my husband and I went out, I enjoyed the rest of it. Those girls gave me a reminder of what is important in life. So, thank you.
What are some of your favorite stories from times gone by? Comment below!
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