Before writing, family history passed from generation to generation through complex storytelling. Thousands of years ago it was easy enough to tell your children not to throw stones at the lion. Much more effective was the passionate telling of a story, around a camp fire, of what terrible things happened to the little boy who threw stones at the lion. Through storytelling not only would the child understand the cause and effect of such behavior, he would also be provided a tool to instruct his own children when the time came. In current times we have plenty of opportunity to learn through books and film that a certain behavior will have consequences. Yet, storytelling remains an important part of passing a family’s culture and experience through the ages.
One Christmas during the time our family was living in Japan my father bought two handmade porcelain china dolls for his brother’s two pre-teen daughters. The dolls were fairly expensive and unique. He lovingly packed them in shipping boxes and mailed them to his brother’s home in Oregon along with a letter to each niece. My parents were excited about the gifts they had sent their nieces for Christmas and hoped the girls would appreciate and enjoy them.
During the 1980s I was visiting my aunt and uncle in the LA area. My uncle told me about his fiftieth reunion which had taken place a couple of weeks prior to my visit. He said, “Betty and I got all dressed up and headed toward the nearby hotel where the reunion was being held, but as we turned into the parking lot I looked at her and told her I didn’t want to see those people. I wanted to remember them the way they were, not the way they are now. We turned out of the parking lot and went to a restaurant and had a quiet dinner.” This was surprising to me as they had been a power couple in high school and had attended all prior reunions – and enjoyed the events.
Yet, that’s how I feel about my class. In the early 1970s we were young, fresh, full of life, and the opportunities lying before us were unlimited. I want my memories to be of a bunch of fresh-faced seventeen-year-olds graduating from a brand-new high school. When speaking to my wife I still refer to that building as the new high school. My memories of the school are stuck in 1973 and perhaps it’s best for me to keep its people confined there as well. Continue reading →