Monday, November 05, 2007

The Greatest Generation's Biggest Legacy: BOOMERS

I'm having a big birthday later this week. Reflection time. While I reflect, think about this: What will you leave your grandchildren to let them know who they came from? A few blogs ago we talked about the things we would save from the house if we had ten minutes to grab and run. I've been thinking about that and the things I wish I had from my parents' and grandparents' houses. And I've been thinking about this birthday.

And then along comes this link in an e-mail. Watch and listen if you haven't heard Billy Joel in a while. The images set to "We Didn't Start the Fire" are a photo history of the events that forged a generation.

I've watched bits and pieces of Ken Burns "The War" recently, remembering how as a kid I thought WWII was ancient history because it happened before I was born. My generation's mantra was "Never trust anyone over 30," and now we're suggesting to our adult children "Never say never."

I've become nostalgic about my own times of late, but I remember a time when my grandmothers told me about times past and I thought, "Wow. The olden days were so...olden!" But I'm blessed with a good memory. Good thing, because I have few mementos. My parents left home after they got marriend, and I did the same. We gypsies save only what we can take in the wagon and the brain.

I got into E-bay a couple of years ago and went nuts buying memories. Barbie dolls and Tiny Tears. Board games like Careers and Parcheesi. 45 Everly Brothers and Beatles records. I finally came to my senses and went cold turkey, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I needed props for Show and Tell for my grandchildren. (It's fun to play with Nana and her Barbies, which are far better than their own.)

The younger generation will make many of the same mistakes we did. Our parents' parents fought the "war to end all wars" and here we are again. And while nostalgia is sweet and self-indulgent, I think there must be a point to letting the young ones in on the good stuff, the personal stuff.

A friend who lost her parents recently found the letters they shared during WWII, and while she devours them, she worries that maybe she's prying into something they would have kept to themselves. But seeing how much she's enjoying them, what a help they are to her in her grief, I just know she was meant to read them and learn more about who her parents were before she came along, which tells her more about who she is.

What will you save for your children and grandchildren? (If you don't have any, you don't get a pass. In Indian Country, your sister's children are your children, and your great nieces and nephews are your grandchildren.) What moments from your time will you tell them about?

Don't forget to go riding with the fabulous Anne Stuart right here on Wednesday!


Betina Krahn said...

Hmmmm. . . saving for the grands. Some of my books, maybe. My journals. Ooops-- maybe not the journals. I've written journals over the years and I'm conflicted as to whether I should get rid of them or let them stay on the shelf for the kids and grands to find after I'm gone.

Do the kids need to know my doubts, fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments, discoveries, triumphs, and the musings of my life in good times and bad? Would it be a comfort or a disappointment to them to peek inside my thoughts?

One thing I would like them to have-- a few years ago, I sat down and wrote out a list of my "beliefs." What I really think about the world and our place in it, about God and good and evil, about the fabric of reality, about how human beings related to each other. Maybe it won't make sense to anybody but me, but maybe it would explain me to them someday.

In terms of physical stuff. . . I'm really not certain the things I love would mean much to them. . . except some of the pieces of furniture their granddad made. Maybe a few quilts from my own mom and dad. And photos. I have tons of photos. . .

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh, my Betina, those journals. Leaving them to be found by the next generation sounds cool. I think that's what our friend's (see post) mom did with those wartime letters. Some time ago she (mom) mentioned that she probably should get rid of them. "Nobody would be interested, and I don't know whether I want anyone to read them." But she didn't get rid of them, and they're serving a second time to defy time and space with words of love and hope. plans and dreams and life. What a treasure!

Debra Dixon said...

My sister gave all of us with children a "memories/beliefs" journal to fill out. Hardback, directed journaling, wide range of questions. Daddy was the only one who finished his and that book of questions is now priceless to all. Daddy died unexpectedly a few years after that.

Through a quirk of publishing fate, my nonfiction publisher wanted a book on small town cops and met my father at a conference where he was speaking. (He was a funny, informative guy with some unbelievable experiences.) They "made" me write this book with him. The family is so thrilled to have that piece of Daddy's life and what he stood for, how he approached his life's work. I can't believe that I was actually a little ticked that they went behind my back and told him they'd "find him an author to work with. Not to worry about that." What could I say when he came zooming up to tell me the unbelievable news that he'd gotten a publishing deal with an advance an everything??? Of course I wouldn't take anything for that experience now.

Which I guess is what forms my answer. I hope to give my son time. Time with me. Time to talk about the memories. And so much of me is in the books I've written. We've already done the beliefs and ethics as he grew up.

That leaves the grandchildren which aren't here yet. I guess maybe I need to find that beliefs/memories journal and write it all down. Just in case.

flchen1 said...

I've written in journals fairly regularly from around junior high until a few years ago (now that I have kids, I tend to write once a year, if that!) I'm not sure I want my kids to have these though...

My husband kept a sort of journal of the six months or so before we got engaged, and I would like my kids to have that. :)

And of course pictures and all that...

Actually, I'm a terrible packrat, so it's more of a question of what won't I save for them... ;)

Helen Brenna said...

Love the picture of you, Kathy! A little bit of Dippity Do in those curls, eh?

I liked the video link too. Thought provoking - amazing how little things change thru time.

What will I leave? I don't journal, so Deb hit it for me. Time. I want to experience things with my kids and grandkids, when/if I get them. I'd like a few adventures ... camping, traveling, holidays.

Christie Ridgway said...

Memories/beliefs journal? I've never heard of/seen one and think that's a great thing to leave behind. Must go find one. I like the idea of directed journaling, probably because being creative is my day job.

Things to leave to my kids...they're both boys, so don't know how much they'll treasure my treasures, such as my grandmother's china.

On an intangible level, I'd like to leave them with the sentiment I express to them often..."Why not you?" The idea that they can achieve a life or career that only happens to a few (like publishing books for a living!). A house in Hawaii? Why not you? A career making movies? Why not you?

I think that's about the best thing I can leave behind for my loved ones...belief in their dreams and themselves.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Deb, the friend I've been talking about wrote a book with her father just a couple of years ago. It was a project she put together with the survivors of his WWI squadron--guys who'd continued having regular reunions over the years. (My dad--who also died much too young at age 48--went to squadron reunions, too.) They'd been talking about doing a book, and when they decided to self-publish, she was drafted as their editor. It's a lovely book, and I know how priceless the experience was for her. So cool that you were able to do that, too!

Kathleen Eagle said...

If you're interested in legacy and memoir writing, check out this site:
Rachael Freed is a friend who does retreats twice a year where she teaches the form and you get started on your legacy. I keep promising myself I'm going to do the one out West one of these days. That will be a big gift to myself. Rachael talks about just this very subject--that women are the legacy keepers, that it's up to us to pass the torch to our daughters. Those journals and quilts and photos and family stories would mostly disappear if it weren't for mothers and grandmothers. I'm sure of it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen: I Am Dippity-Do (And So Can You!)

Actually, it never worked very well for me. I think I wore curlers to the photo studio and sprayed it solid just for the sitting. I'm sure it fell when I walked outside. It was August, as I recall.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I love that mantra, Christie. "Why not you?"

I'm so much more of a cheerleader now than I was years ago. I sing stupid songs with the grands, like "We did it! We did it! We did it, did it, did it!" There's a dance that goes with it. You neither want to see nor hear, but they're too young to be embarrassed by the fact that Nana no longer cares that she can't sing and no longer watches herself in the mirror when she dances.

lois greiman said...

More than anything I want my children to know they are everything to me. I've dedicated a book to each of them, so if they ever forget how important they are, they can see it in print. (So it must be true.)

Anonymous said...

memories/belief journal is a wonderful concept. Any ideas on how to approach with adopted children?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Great question, Anon. I guess it depends on the circumstances and whether you have contact with birth parents. If they're available, photos and words from birth grandparents might be a lovely gift.

Anonymous said...

NOT TRUE ! the greatest generations biggest mistake was the "boomers". Your generation has run this country into the ground with greed, corruption and the introduction of a world wide drug epidemic and std's that kill you. The "boomers" will be lucky if they are even shown mercy by their children in the next 20 years to come. The "boomers" have caused irreversible damage as a whole to this country and you should all be ashamed of yourselves!