After my fling with genealogy and making sure all the relatives had copies of them and the transcribed memoirs of grandmothers, I became a Den mother and school and church volunteer.
Genealogy got left behind.
But after Dan was in school every day, I spent time with my widowed mother. She still lived on the Madison County farm where I grew up, but we usually went somewhere, even if it was just taking a drive into Guthrie County. She’d tell stories of her growing up years in Dexter. I began to take notes, and learned to ask which house she lived in during which episode. Sometimes we’d drive by those houses in Stuart and Dexter. I’m thankful we did, since only one of them still stands.
House after house! Sometimes stories would emerge when someone else was driving. I’d be in the back seat scribbling notes on a scrap of paper.
Most of the stories weren’t new. I’d heard Mom tell them all my life. Well, I didn’t exactly hear them, as I’d pretty well shut them out. But here she was, putting flesh on those family trees, adding color to her own mother’s memoirs.
All of a sudden they’d become fascinating.
Mom, abetting me, scrolled through microfilms of old newspapers at the Iowa State Historical Library, where we’d make copies of clippings. Then we’d have pizza at Noah’s Ark on Ingersoll Avenue on the way home.
I began to sort them into file folders, house by house. After reading all the World War II letters and all the research about the brothers, I added a third four-drawer filing cabinet.
Then I read that if your notes are on backs of envelopes and scribbled on napkins, your descendants will toss all of them. No!
But I knew that’s exactly what would happen.
A couple of years ago I began typing up the notes chronologically and merging them with clippings, letters, postcards, significant dates. They are now safely in notebooks, which I’m pretty sure our son would at least take home before summarily tossing them. And by then, he just might find them fascinating.
The information in them have made old photos come to life, and have been so helpful as I’m sculpting the second of what will eventually turn into a trilogy of “Leora stories.” Leora was my mother’s mother, my delightful Grandma Leora.
The moral to this story is: Write down your stories, type up any that look like they probably should be recycled, label those old photos!
You’ll be so glad you did.