Last summer, I was watering my neighbor’s plants and discovered that they’d planted a bunch of marigolds. I thought, “They must really want a marigold bed because they reseed themselves every year.” This is a fact that I learned in my childhood.
When I was a child, my parents ran a small motel in Southern Utah. My grandfather had built it and, when they retired, my parents took over running it. In the front, there was a flower box built into the cement sidewalk and every year it would be overflowing with marigolds.
My grandmother loved marigolds. She’d planted them everywhere. My mother, however, did not love them so much. While marigolds are bright and cheery, they don’t smell very good. For years, my mother put up with them despite hating them and their smell as she didn’t want to offend my grandmother, until finally she pulled them all up and planted other flowers.
While it’s a short memory, it’s something that sticks out whenever I run across marigolds. Although it’s not a particularly special memory, it does make me sad to think that my youngest siblings (I’m the oldest of 11) would never know how much Grandma loved marigolds or what a bane they were to my mother.
Memories, stories, and families are important. They’re the touchstones to those who came before us. They provide clues to who we are and why we are. In his article in the NY Times, Bruce Feiler regards how important it is to develop a “strong family narrative.” His research found that families who had a strong sense of their family history were better able to function and face challenges than those who didn’t. This finding crossed cultures, learning abilities, and social status. It was found to be the best predictor of a child’s emotional health and happiness.
I’ve always loved history. Sharing my unique family history with the people who share the same DNA brings us closer together. Enabling my children to have good emotional health and happiness is priceless. Even if the stories aren’t happy, love-conquers-all stories, they’re important. These were real people’s stories – people we have ties with.
Last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a hummingbird bracelet and necklace. I’m sure she thought they were pretty. When I opened the present and saw them, I thought immediately of this same Grandma. She loved her hummingbirds. There were always several hummingbird feeders hanging in her yard so she could watch them. Some of my favorite memories were sitting on her front porch, watching them feed on her homemade apricot nectar while she told me facts about them.
These are the stories I will tell my children. My children only met Grandma once, but they will likely never remember it as they were so young. All they will have of her is my memories – memories that I will pass on in the hope that she will come alive for my children through them. Then I will tell them about a great-grandfather I was lucky enough to know.