Saturday, May 19, 2012

Update Your Family Memory Book

Me at age 10

It's time to think about adding to your Family Memories book. I'm a big proponent of writing about your memories so that your grandchildren and beyond that generation will know what life was like in your growing-up years. A painless way to learn a bit of history. Do it month by month, or even holiday by holiday. Keep it together as a book. Make it as plain or as fancy as you like. What's important is the inside content. Add pictures or let your words bring the visual images.

Here are a few of my May memories:

The Merry Month of May

May is my favorite month. I was born in May, my parents were married in May, Mother’s Day comes in May, my youngest brother was born in May, and I had many a memorable Memorial Day celebration in May. Let me tell you a little about each of these events.

I always loved having a May birthday in my growing up years because it was not too close to Christmas and it arrived just prior to summer. That meant I often received new summer clothes as a gift from my parents. I loved opening those gifts looking for the surprise inside, usually something in rainbow sherbet colors to complement my fair skin and auburn hair. But the year I was in sixth grade, I opened a birthday package at the dining room table with my mother, father, and two younger brothers all watching. I untied the pink ribbon, opened the box and spread the tissue paper. There lying in all its glory was my first bra. I looked at it, then around the table at my family, and I felt the heat creep up from my toes to the top of my head. My face flamed in humiliation. I slammed the lid on the box and moved on to the next package. To this day, I cannot imagine why my mother did that to me. But there were other special birthday memories. One occurred that very same year. It was 1951 and my 12th birthday. A classmate had a birthday 3 days prior to mine, so we had a combined birthday luncheon that year. We had an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch, so it was not problem for all the girls in our class to walk to Carole’s house where our mothers waited with food and drink, cake and ice cream. We’d given an invitation to each girl in the class and also invited our teacher—Mr. Biddinger. He was the first man to teach in our grade school and became the most loved. The girls all brought a gift for each of us, but I have no idea what any of them were. Mr. Biddinger brought both birthday girls a gift that I’ll never forget. He handed each of us a white box, and nestled inside was a corsage made of two spicy scented carnations held together by a pink ribbon bow. It was the first corsage I’d ever had, and the thrill it gave has lasted to this very day.

My mother and father celebrated their first anniversary two days after I was born. They’d run away and eloped a year earlier, been married secretly for six weeks. One day my grandmother confronted Mom and with ice in her voice said, “You’re married, aren’t you?” Mom nodded her head, and there must have been fear spreading throughout her limbs. Grandma glared and told her, “Then you’d better go live with your husband.” Her two older brothers were angry, too, that she’d married that no-good guy, and they refused to speak to him. But the day after I arrived on the scene, the entire family gathered at Mom’s bedside, admiring yours truly lying in her arms. My two uncles reached across the bed and shook my dad’s hand. Suddenly, he was part of the family, and the three men became the best of friends. Even Grandma relented and decided to accept him. Babies soothe many a troubled heart.

Mother’s Day comes in May, too. And I’ve had some miserable ones when my children were going through their teen-age years, and then there have been some that are dear to my heart. When I was in college, I went home with my roommate on Mother’s Day week-end during my Senior year. I went because she asked me and we had a ride to her hometown. It was a week-end away and didn’t cost me a penny, and in those college years, each penny was carefully counted. It wasn’t until years later that I learned how hurt my own dear mother had been that I had chosen to go home with my roommate instead of coming to spend the week-end with her. At the time, it never crossed my mind that she’d be hurt, and years beyond, it was too late to make it up to her. It still bothers me.

My baby brother was born two weeks before I turned sixteen, an unexpected addition to our family. I had two brothers already and I wanted a baby sister in the worst way, but along came Jimmy instead. The moment I laid eyes on him, I loved him, and I still do. He’s in his fifties now, but he’s still my baby brother and always will be. He’s the only one who didn’t witness me receiving my first bra at my 12th birthday celebration.

May finishes with Memorial Day week-end. Every year from kindergarten through eighth grade, all the students in Lincoln School marched by classes to Carroll Playground across the street. Every class selected a boy to carry the American flag and a girl to carry a bouquet of flowers to lay at a commemorative plaque honoring all those who had attended Lincoln School and had given their lives during WWII and the Korean War. A solemn ceremony accompanied the laying of the flowers. In those days Memorial Day was always May 30th and we had the ceremony the day before, which just happened to be my birthday. Because of that fact, I was chosen to carry the flowers almost every year, and the strange thing is that no one ever complained. It was accepted, and it made me feel so very special. The parade of classes, the patriotic songs, the many American flags waving, the speeches, and the floral offerings all instilled a great sense of patriotism in me that lasts to this day.

Yes, May is a very special month for me with memories that warm my heart.  Always was and always shall be. At least, I hope so.

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