Words Between Generations {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 4}

Today I’d like to share a piece from another storyteller, my mother. She overflows with meaningful memories from her childhood and young adulthood, and whether talking or writing, she gives those memories beginning, middle and end and I see them so clearly that I almost feel I lived them myself.

I laugh staccato over some of the words below because I knew the man in his old age and he was just the same, tossing out butterscotches to all the grandkids and telling his tall tales of pranking fellow soldiers in WWII Italy. He was a recycled teenager and he wore a T-shirt that said so.

But I read slow in parts that tell me of how he chose to use his people skills. He went out of his way to bless the overlooked, the unheard. He spoke without saying a word, teaching in a second language so the deaf could hear the Word and believe.

I’m glad my mom writes. Her words connect me with my history and give color, shape and definition to my family tree. And her stories always build my faith in people and the One who made them. Enjoy a little sample below….

The Tallest Man in the World, by Barbara Cross

I think I was in the fifth or sixth grade when Dad picked me up from school one day. He was on his way to the Indiana School for the Deaf where he taught a weekly Religious Education class. Dad had been working in the deaf ministry at our church since I was 8 years old. I didn’t usually go with him to the Deaf School, but today was a special occasion. Crammed into the passenger seat of Dad’s car was Max Palmer, the tallest man in the world. Max was a Christian who liked to use his physical appearance to get others to listen to his testimony about Christ. Our church loved to have unusual people like Max come and help us attract a crowd. Sometimes it seemed like a circus – 3,000 people coming to see Jesus Freaks. My dad was not above taking the sideshow to the deaf kids.

So here I was, walking out to the curb to get in the car with Dad and Max. I had to get in the seat behind Dad because the seat behind Max was maxed out. We drove the few blocks from School 66 on 38th Street to the Deaf School on 42nd Street. We entered the building and everyone we passed gawked at Max who was about 8 feet tall. Dad smiled and began signing an explanation, “I told the kids I had a BIG surprise for them today…” We went to the room where they had their weekly meeting. It was fun to hear the shrieks of glee from the deaf kids who were about my age or younger. They were so excited to have Max there and to be able to ask him questions. I know it was as memorable for them as it is for me. In the longrun, they realized that Dad cared very much about them. He wanted them to learn about God and have fun in the process. So many of them lived away from family in order to receive an education. I was happy to share my very special dad with them. To me, he was the tallest man in the world.

{What have others from past generations recorded that blesses you now? How important do you think the written word is in documenting life’s stories (i.e. are visual arts and other forms of communication just as effective)? What place does documenting for future generations have in your writing life?}

This is Day 4 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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5 thoughts on “Words Between Generations {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 4}

  1. A different form of preservation. Before I was born my father had a record player/recorder. No one I knew had anything like that. He recorded himself singing to my mother and singing along with a famous singer on the radio. I loved hearing his voice on those records as a child and then later as an adult it was wonderful to hear my father’s
    very young voice preserved on a 78rpm record.

  2. This is awesome – I actually didn’t realize your mom is a regular writer too! (Regular meaning in frequency, not quality… haha). I love that story. My grandparents wrote beautiful love letters to each other while my grandfather was stationed in England in WW2. Perhaps one of my favorite recorded items is a poem my grandmother wrote in her beautiful calligraphy about parenthood. You’ve seen it hanging in our bedroom.

  3. I loved this article, and the accompanying photo! Thank you for this. I believe that photos are powerful, but the written word is more powerful. In my own memories, I believe that we live out thoughts and ideas and priorities, so putting words to those pictures is more important when talking to loved ones about the past. A mentor of mine told me to always keep a journal and write down your feelings with the activities of life, as those are the first memories you’ll forget, and the most important to remember when you’re older. The photos are for the person who already has the memory in his or her heart, but the written word is most important because it tells the whole story to the next generation, not merely an individual scene. Thanks again for your words!

    • I never thought about it before that pictures are for the one who experienced an event while future generations need words to get the full meaning of a picture. Love that insight.

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