I think I grew up in a pretty normal family. My mother was a stay-at-home mom like so many women were in the 1960’s and 1970’s. My father worked for two corporations during his entire married life. He was very steady and dependable in that regard. My parents were frugal like you can’t imagine, but we never went without food or clothes.
But, my family of origin was also proficient at secret keeping. There was a history of mental illness on my mother’s side of the family, but I don’t recall that ever being discussed. My father had a previous marriage, but that was certainly never brought up! I was 50 years-old before I even knew about that relationship. By that time, both of my parents had been deceased for many years. Other relatives who could fill places of curiosity were deceased as well. There were other family secrets that were far more destructive that I didn’t learn about until a couple of years ago. I hold no resentment toward my parents. I think the inclination to secrecy was characteristic of people who comprised their generation. And, it was also inherent in the Southern culture that formed both of them.
I think it’s possible to tell adult children too much! I would not want to burden my children with all of my failures. They are too numerous, and could potentially harm them. But, I do believe that our children need to hear our stories. They need to know the tales of our childhood. The narratives that shaped us are important. And, our children need to know about the people who shaped us.
On May 1st of this year, I am embarking on a journey with my oldest son that will take both of us back to my childhood. I was born in Atlanta and lived in Kansas City in my earliest years. We moved to the Chicago area when I was three years-old. When I was 7 years-old, we moved to Racine, Wisconsin. Randall and I will visit Racine and Chicago during our time together. As we visit key locations, I will tell him about the people who impacted my life. And the events that occurred at those places will be relayed too. Randall plans to video each leg of our journey.
There is a lot to be told. There are so many people who shaped my formative years! And of course, there are sad stories as well. I want Randall to hear all about the places and people who “raised” me. So…watch out Racine! And watch out Chicago! We are coming soon.
My encouragement to peers is this: tell your story. Choose to be transparent. Our children will be less likely to repeat the mistakes we made, if we are willing to share with them. And, what a privilege it is for our children to either know about or actually meet our friends! I am looking forward to this trip back in time.