Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hear Your Elders

Not only am I the youngest in my family, I'm amongst the youngest of my cousins as well. To me, everyone was always older. 
Via bazanphotos
I don't know if it is just my nature, or because I was always around those who were older, but I like older people. We seem to have more similar interests than I do with my contemporaries. 

Silas House notes "The Growing Generational Divide," and the cost to the next generation:
This is the main thing we lose when we don’t talk to our elders: the histories. How many teenagers, for example, know the intimate details of the Kardashians’ lives but don’t know the love stories of their own parents? The joys and sorrows of the older generations serve as examples for us to learn from, to emulate or, perhaps even more useful, to avoid. As age segregation becomes more ingrained in our culture, what cycles will be repeated, what misconceptions will flourish? 
Quite a lot. I try to tell over the family tales to the best of my ability, but with every re-teller they get contaminated. I just took my niece's head off because she completely butchered/fabricated her report on Ma's coming to America ("They never referred to it as the 'Goldeneh Medinah!'")

The younger generation may roll their eyes at how the relatively elderly struggle with technology, but as Ma heard a personality proclaiming on a talk show, there is more to knowledge that smartphone savvy. Yes, she may not know the iPhone—but that means she has nothing to teach? There is plenty the young people don't know that she does.  


Altie said...

I was thinking about this recently. On Shabbos I was staying by a family friend, and the grandmother was there too. She's an elderly woman from Russia. I somehow found myself talking to her, and she just kept talking. At first I tried to gently detract myself from the conversation, but then I realized what she was telling me was fascinating. Her family history is so rich. She lived with her grandparents, she has doctors in her family, she herself was a pathologist in Kiev, I had no idea! I just assumed she was a simpleton.

It got me thinking about my own family. My great aunt wrote a book recently of her memoirs. She is younger than my grandmother. The book starts off with how my grandmother supposedly tried to push her sister's stroller into oncoming traffic, and how she never wanted her around. I never knew that side of my grandmother. I never imagined her as a child.

In 8th grade we all had to do a family history report. But since I have two older sisters, I pretty much just copied theirs. I interviewed an elderly cousin of mine, who's really my grandmother's cousin. He was funny. But he died recently. It's sad that I don't have such a connection to my family history.

I didn't even have all the facts straight about my parent's history. I thought they had moved to Boston because my father got into law school but apparently they just moved there randomly and he applied to law school later. My mother is more talkative than my father. I don't know as much about my father's childhood. I realized that if I don't ask them, all these stories will eventually die with them. (They should live long and be healthy.)

I feel like my own story will be so much less significant.

Daniel Saunders said...

I'm more or less the eldest in my family (older than my sister and my first cousins, have a second-cousin a little older, plus some others I've never met), but I also like to know the family history. I know all kinds of anecdotes from my grandfathers. My paternal grandfather in particular was a wonderful raconteur and I used to get him to tell me stories whenever he babysat for me.

Unfortunately, our family never lets the facts get in the way of a good story, so I think some are a little exaggerated. On the other hand, my great-grandfather won the military medal in World War I, but, being a very humble man, disliked telling the story of how he won it, so there are various versions in the family.

Mr. Cohen said...

Barack Hussein Obama was elected USA President largely because he received the votes of the youngest voters: 25 years old or younger.

This highly-experienced demographic group was persuaded by very-meaningful slogans like: “change” and “yes we can”.

PS: www.camera.org * www.HonestReporting.com * www.memri.org * www.ActForAmerica.org * www.IsraelLawCenter.org

Princess Lea said...

Altie: I was at the doctor the other day and he was telling me some hair-raising stories from his background - I'm starting to wonder how much my own heritage was edited!

So many stories, it turns out, I have been getting wrong. I hope they get corrected before the next generation starts telling them over.

I feel the same way: "My own story will be so much less significant." My grandparents went through Nazis and communists and immigration and so much more. Not that I'm complaining! I'll take the boring, forgettable existence, though.

DS: It's a personality quirk. There is an older niece who loves these tales; not all do.

I suppose exaggeration is normal. I'm just hoping we don't have outright fabrication.