If the Story-Teller leaves no oral or written family history, it dies with them. I think my mother knew this. 44 years ago in 1973, I was 5 years old. My mother was an elementary school teacher and I distinctly remember during Summer vacation, my mother sitting in her home office and firmly letting me know that she was writing a family story. She would tell me that I needed to find something to do as she spoke into an old-fashioned tape recorder with a hand-held microphone, clearly pronouncing every syllable of every word.
[When I reflect on this, I realize that she had perfect diction and elocution, as did her Aunt Zara Cully Brown, who taught her how to speak]
I have always been curious about my family history, and I would hear the stories of my parent’s lives spoken around the table, or in the living room when my mother was entertaining guests. I always had my ears perked up, but with child understanding, many of the stories were not remembered or understood clearly.
My Paternal Grandmother would give me bits and pieces of her life and those of her family members from the country, but she would shut-down if my questions presented hit a nerve. That would be it, and nothing more.
My mother passed away in 2004, and as I was packing and storing the contents of her home, I came across boxes of tapes. Many of the tapes were recordings of community events, and recordings of guest speakers. When I found the time, I took each tape and listened to see what was on them. One after one, I stumbled across the old tapes my mother had been recording in the Summer of 1973. I was ecstatic. Not only did she record the stories, but most of them she had already transcribed. This was the beginning of my genealogical family research on the history of her ancestry.
These tapes sparked the story-teller in me, and as I listened to each tape, I realized the stories she was telling were passed down from her mother and her mother’s mother. It was five generations of stories. I knew my mother wanted to write her life story in Sugar-hill, New York which also encompassed Worcester, MA and North Carolina. As a matter of fact, I had promised my mother when she was living that I would help her find records to support the stories she was telling.
My mother, The story-teller, who is no longer with us, is alive and well when I replay the old tapes, and the new CD’s I had made of the tapes. It is like my mother is in the room. I feel her spirit, and it is in my hearts desire to continue to tell the stories of my ancestors as I hand them down to my children and their children. Whenever I get the chance, I incorporate the stories into the daily lives of my children according to how they relate to the happenings in their lives.
“Our lives are like a million books, of which many stories can be told.”