My grandmother is an ageless anomaly, a spirited, joy-filled woman of 89 whose daily calendar allows for little downtime. She volunteers at the local hospital, meets up with her friends for card games, is involved at the church, and attends nearly every event on her great grandkids’ busy sports schedule. And this is saying nothing of the smile that’s permanently fixed to her. In a word, she is amazing.
She also has fantastic stories, which always makes for long, fascinating conversations over coffee in her small, inviting home. She talks to me about “how it was”, about ancestors from long ago, and I listen. Piece by piece, a narrative begins to breathe life into the people in the yellowed photographs laid out in her scrapbooks. This past weekend, for the first time ever, I brought my computer along and began transcribing our conversations on family history, word for word, as I’ve done so many times with sources for news stories.
It only occurred to me somewhat recently how strange it was to have furiously taken down history in real time for the local newspaper, documenting the words and actions of mostly strangers, while failing to jot a single line of the story most worth capturing: my own. What little I do know of our family’s history is intriguing enough to stir up that old reporter curiosity – What was the Great Depression like? What did my grandfather enjoy doing? And what kind of business was Uncle L really into?
If the dullest pencil is indeed better than the sharpest memory, then the lasting document we’ll have produced together will serve as an invaluable reference for future DiPietros and will have come at the very small cost of time and many pots of coffee.