Warmest regards: Family stories have intrinsic value
If someone talks about a family inheritance, you might think that refers to money, property or items of value.
The family inheritance I mean has little monetary value yet it can be priceless.
Family stories can be the real riches of inheritance. That’s certainly true for me.
I’m fairly sure few if any parents would say to their kids, “Sit down and listen. I’m going to pass along a story that will have meaning for you.”
We tell a story to others mostly when a memory we want to share pops into our mind. We don’t even think of it as passing along family stories. We’re simply recalling something from the past.
While I value the few family stories passed along to me, I never thought much about how those stories influenced my mind until reading a book on the subject.
The author claimed a story from our parents’ past can stay with us, influencing present-day thinking and shaping our attitudes in unsuspecting ways.
As I thought about that, it brought to mind a story my parents told me about the time the mines closed down, leaving my dad and many other miners unable to find work.
They concluded they would have to move away to another part of the state where my dad could find work. The plan was my mother would stay back while my dad went to the city to stay with his brother while he looked for work.
According to my mom, she was getting concerned when my father wasn’t out looking for work. Instead, he stayed in the library reading for hours each day.
Dad was reading about turbine engines, submarines and diesel locomotives. When he was sure he had learned enough, he applied for a job at Baldwin-Lima engine works. They liked my dad and his resume and hired him. They liked his work ethic, too, and put him in charge of a 12-man crew.
Everything was great until the company got a big military contract and had to do a background check on each man.
Dad got called into the office to answer for why he claimed work experience he didn’t have.
Dad said he answered, “Did you ever have no job and hungry children you couldn’t feed?”
He was given a second chance and stayed with the company until it closed.
That story stayed with me through the years as a lesson in persevering through challenges.
Family stories help us know ourselves as well as our past.
My mom told me a story about my interaction as a baby with my dad’s mean stepfather who didn’t have a nice word for anyone. They were just as happy to stay away from his temper.
But he loved me because when he walked by I kept reaching out my arms for him to take me. Mom said he happily carried me all over.
She said that proves from the time I was a baby I loved people and would talk to anyone. I think it goes to show people will like you if you give them a chance and like them first.
A parent’s stories can sometimes help you find a key to your own personality.
My mom couldn’t tell a happy story from her childhood because she never had a normal childhood. Her father was unbelievably mean. He literally kicked her down the steps and out the door, telling her she couldn’t come back. She was 9 years old.
While it breaks my heart to hear how she was treated, I am proud of her for being a survivor who refused to be broken.
I wish I knew more about how she survived by baby-sitting for her sister and cleaning homes to earn money for her school clothes. I truly don’t know how anyone who had it so bad could turn into a such a good, caring woman.
One thing I do know. I am proud to say I come from tough stock. When things get tough for me I remember that and it inspires me to know I, too, can survive.
Experts tell us one of the many benefits of knowing family stories is that it helps us to better understand our family and sometimes helps us to recognize family traits we see in ourselves.
I’m at the point in life that my parents, sister MaryAnn and most of my relatives are gone, But when I recall family experiences, they stay alive through the stories.
I love talking to my brother Richard for so many reasons. He’s well-informed and is a good storyteller in his own right.
One of the big pluses of hearing his stories is that I better understand and appreciate our family experiences.
When we share family stories we turn our hearts to our mothers, fathers and ancestors. It makes me ever so grateful for the love they lavished on me and for the life I’ve been given.
It was said that Richard and I are total opposites - nothing like each other. Our deep conversations and sharing of family stories have convinced me that’s not quite true. We are alike in so many ways.
Understanding builds through the years as my daughters and I continue to share our family stories. It’s another of our gifts to each other.
Leave behind your own legacy. Share your family stories.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.