Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Family Historian - And Then Some

Most close families have a family historian. I meant that informally, although I’m sure there are families out there who have someone who has set about chronicling the family history on one side, or maybe even both. I’ve seen classes at community colleges that teach people how to interview their family elders so as to get the kind of information they want. Then they can write up the stories and have them published in a limited edition to be distributed at the holidays. I’ve even seen classes where the family stories are interwoven with handed-down recipes. That’s a great idea because nothing speaks to memory like food! At least, that’s true for me. Especially the scents and aromas that go with particular dishes and treats.

I, on the other hand, would like to archive something different. Never mind the skeletons in the closet, I want to write up ghost stories that my relatives either experienced or heard about. For me, that would be right up there with a family cook/history book.

I’ve already heard quite a few of them, and I’m glad I did because some of those relatives have since passed away. But I remember their ghost and paranormal stories. One involved a shape-shifter. Another was about a time-of-death visit from a favorite uncle. (Come to think of it, I may have one of those myself. I’ll have to ponder on that.) And then there was the one that involved a legendary Chicago-area haunting. That was from my older brother and it was a good one.

But except for the story from my brother, I’ve never written up any of these and I think sometimes that maybe I should. I consider my sister and my younger daughter to be the keepers of the recipes. Both of them are very skilled in the kitchen and while I do make a few of my mother’s dishes, I don’t go at it with the gusto and courage they both exhibit. And I’m always happy to eat what they come up with because they both sure come close to what my mother (a veritable genius at both the stove and the oven) concocted over the years.

I could, however, wax very enthusiastic about family ghost stories: tales having to do with weird phone calls, or mysterious voices, or the sweet old lady by the fireplace who wasn’t really there. Maybe even a doppelganger. As I sit here and write this, more and more tales that I’ve heard from siblings, uncles, aunts, friends of the family, daughters, and cousins, come to the fore. Maybe I’ve already collected more of these accounts than I ever realized. Hmm.

I could see collecting histories and recipes to hand out to the relatives for Christmas. But a volume of family ghost stories? We don’t get together at Halloween. But maybe such a book would be as suitable for Christmas as the recipes. After all, Christmas was when the Victorians told their scary tales around the fire. But I guess if I were to do it, no one would actually be surprised, seeing as how the book would come from me.

It’s a little too late this year to do this for Christmas, 2019. But 2020 or even 2021? I wonder…

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