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By Remy Benoit

   My aunt married a man who was an orphan. He had been left on the traditional steps, but he  said that didn't bother him, he  felt there was a reason, a good one, for someone to do that.

   What did bother him was that nothing was left with him to give him any sense of roots, of place from which he had sprung. He would have liked to have known where his grandparents came from, where his parents were born, etc.
   How much have you shared with your children, and perhaps even theirs?

   Yesterday I was going through some pictures with my two.  

   This is the corner Ma and Pa store where I took my pennies and bought pretzel sticks and candy pin wheels.

   This was your great-granparents living room; these were your great-aunts and uncles. At Christmas your great-grandfather had the room half-filled with his trains and things that went around and lit up to no purpose by joy. 

   Our children today, so very many of them, feel no sense of roots; are provided with no age related rituals beyond the basic ones of traditional religions.  We all need to know who we are; where we came from, what memories are ours to share.

   We all need to feel grounded; we need a sense of belonging.

   All families have stories of who came here when and why; of loves unrequited, of children lost, of great success, and of demolished dreams.

   Our stories are needed. My granddad, on the paternal side, used to sit down and plunk a raw egg into a glass of milk. When he started stirring, we knew there was a story coming.

   My maternal grandmother, Eva, taught me to Never Say Never.

   My paternal grandmother taught me how to make babka and pierogi.

   My maternal grandfather taught me the meaning of unconditional love.    

   I learned a lot about life on that street corner where the Ma and Pa store was in Philadelphia. I still have my so treasured skate key. I still have a so treasured friend from that growing up time. My daughter found me a copy of MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin,  a childhood favorite.                                                    

   One of my other favorite books is Ray Bradbury's, Dandelion Wine because it so beautifully captures precious times of growing up. My son and I took turns reading it aloud to each other years ago building, sharing, a precious memory. Dandelion Wine.

   My daughter shared Japanese anime and J-pop with me. It helps us know that our world is ours, not theirs. Life and history change and move on. It makes us consider how we can build international friendships rather than international enemies. I have mentioned before my cats were gifts from a Vietnamese family.

   Sharing memories, sharing roots helps ground us all.

   I confess, I am a dedicated clutter person. I keep it organized, but I keep my history alive. I wear Aunt Alice's jewelry and think of her awful pink aluminum tree, but I loved her and Uncle George who, when I was on my own in my own apartment, called once a week to just make sure things were alright.        

   We eat from some of Granny's dishes, use her silver. I tell my kids how Grandpop loved cheese and had a pet squirrel; how he taught  me that the only real love was unconditional. I show them pictures of my great-grandmother and they can see her face in theirs, as they can in their own grandmother's.

   We move alot as Americans, we must be careful to not move away from where we are rooted. We must share those roots with our children to keep them grounded. That granny who taught me taught me how to make babka was an air raid warden in the Big One, while her son was a Navy medic.  She taught me how to crochet all those afghans I make for friends.             

   As the year winds down, tell your kids, tell you mate, you know there was a day when my.....  

   Share your roots, share the joys, the pains.
Share the history.                                                                     



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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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