Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Girl of the Silent Generation

One of the writers in my Thursday morning class wrote a piece which expresses anew how powerful stories can be, not only for future generations, but to many who hear and read them now. She gave me permission to share it with you.

Perhaps reading this piece will inspire you to write your stories for your family and friends--perhaps even get together a group with others eager to share their writing.
Keep in mind that every story you write from your heart will be cherished by someone, sometime, somewhere. I can almost guarantee it, because everybody loves a story.

The Girl of the Silent Generation
By Georgia Meshke

Here I sit in a small room located in the basement of the Tigard Senior Center. A florescent light glares overhead; many long folding tables are gathered in the center of a small conference room surrounded with chairs of various heights and comfort. In one corner is an open door exposing a broom closet and flanking the two entrances to the room are unisex bathrooms. There is no art or decoration on the walls . . . three walls are white . . . the fourth, institutional green.

This is where I spend my Thursday mornings from ten to twelve. Why do I devote my time to this room? I think I'm classified as a senior, but that is not why I am here! I have paid good money to be here!

There are over a dozen men and women that share this space with me, most have been attending these sessions for years. I feel like the new kid on the block, as this is my second term of PCC class, "Write Your Life Story."

Many of the group, from what I can gather, are about my age and demeanor. Most are retired from jobs that we may never know about and, in any case, jobs or occupations no longer define who we are.

The common denominator of the group, a goal we all share, is a desire to put to paper our life memoirs. Whether it is for our families or our own enjoyment, it seems a driving force to "just get it out." The class gives me energy to complete the goal . . . one I started several years ago.

Our instructor is a stately woman, a professional; she has published a series of books for young girls. The stories she reads to us of her childhood years evoke my memories and inspires me to record my story. There are no tests or homework, she encourages to tell our tales in our own individual way. . . there are no set rules. She does recommend using lots of paragraphs and more paragraphs . . . and once in while, “throw in an antidote or two.”

A myriad of stories stream from this group. It is the year of a new president and some of the folk's political views are exposed. Some describe their feelings of how they handled the great snow story of 2008, One woman takes us back to the age of the dime store. I think to myself, "Gads . . . what can you buy for a dime today?" Several doting grandmothers leave a legacy of words for their beloved granddaughters. A sophisticated lady takes us around the world to the exotic land of India . . . I am envious of her daring travels to this land.

I am intrigued by a story that sticks in my brain of a mother-to-be, being prescribed by her doctor, to drink three cocktails a day to presumably prevent losing her baby! Wow!
From a poet's mouth flows a bouquet of words of his memory of a childhood Christmas. He plays to our emotions of a longing for a simple toy, causing a hushed silence among the group, with a few tears thrown in.

We have a veteran of the terrible, romanticized World War II. As a young man he went off to defend his country as a paratrooper, he seems brush it off as just a great adventure. He shares his viewpoint of this famous event and of the times, things we will never find in a history book.

We hear narratives of cats, horses, sewing and simple daily things. One woman has pulled stories and pictures of unknown ancestors from a long forgotten box stored away in her mother's attic; a treasure most of us will never have the fortune to find. I long for that treasure. What would it be like to hear my grandmother's story of her youth in her own words telling how she came to America.

A retired policeman acquaints us with the politics of the Portland police union during his long tenure. Ears perk up as he relates trade information, things we have never read about in a newspaper or seen on TV. A lady from Turkey spins stories of her youth, written in words for a younger reader as she is aspiring to be a writer of children's books.

A gentleman relates the horror of his first day of kindergarten . . . this was at a time when kindergarten was all fun and games. He so longed to learn to read and felt all his hopes dashed on discovering the only thing offered at kindergarten was play.

Stories are gleaned from old neighborhoods, schools attended, jobs, friends from long ago, relatives, and simple day by day things. We hear stories of childhoods that are tragic, mysterious, wistful, some as typical as, "Leave it Beaver." Others are sad, some happy, a gamut of emotions and thoughts spill from these stories.

The hours fly by, my tummy is growling, I want coffee, a bite to eat, but other than that I don't notice the time. There was not enough time in this session to read my story, but not to care, it was an entertaining and learning two hours.

I will go home, carry on with day to day life . . . write more words and next Thursday morning at the senior center, I will read my story.


Catherine said...

How wonderful, Eva, that you are giving people the skills and the courage to tell their stories - what a beautiful gift, not only for them, but for their families as well. You have inspired me to begin writing again after more than twenty years.

Beth Niquette said...

Good morning, Mumsie!

You have always been an inspiration to me. How wonderful to watch others become inspired as I have been. Thank you for sharing the precious insights of your student. How eloquent she is!

This morning I feel a renewed will to begin writing my own stories once again. (Grin)

Thank you, darling Mumsie!

~Cheryl said...

Powerful stories.... no kidding! I pretty much devoured each one. I appreciate how you quietly pour words of inspiration out that almost drown me! Thank you for making me feel stronger. You are incredible!

Grannie Annie said...

Thank you Eva, for helping others to tell their stories. Someday I will get to mine but for now I am enthralled with the life histories of my ancestors.
I put off writing these histories because my grammer and spelling are horrible. Then I realized if I didn't write them down no one else would. At least I have recorded the stories so they aren't lost, someone after me can rewrite them and make them perfect. Like you, I believe everyone has a story and they should be the one to tell it.
However writing what is in your heart can be scary. Thank you for sharing your knowledge your courage and your talent with so many and helping us to over come our fears.

Looking to the Stars said...

I am so glad to learn that you are encouraging people to tell thier stories. I believe so strongly in this also. Everyone has a story and they need to write it down so that it is not lost. Thank you for teaching them this :)