Lois Elaine Taft: Half a Journal and Half a Remembrance
Kolon, Katherine S.
When people ask me why I am writing a biography of my grandmother, I answer them, trying to fulfill their romantic ideas, trying to convince them that she did something important. They want evidence of her existence. They want, like all humans, another story to tell. What they want is Hollywood. Maybe they would like a story of a strikingly beautiful, yet poor, woman who works her way up from the bottom, then falls desperately in love with the man of everyone's dreams, manages to raise a marvelous family and give something back to the community by helping other poor families. I try to mold the truth into something like this, something that will put people in a state of awe. "Well, she led a kind of wild life," I start. "She was married three times, one of which was a very abusive and alcoholic relationship. She went to college and studied music, and later, she became a teacher. She was very politically active and did a lot of writing, fiction and non-fiction. She took a lot of people under her wing." I stop somewhere about there, realizing that I have neither an earthshaking event to tell nor an insightful moral about life to tell. My audience's attention falters. This is not cutting it, this is not enough. They nod at me and say something about how rewarding it must be to study family history ... Yeah. What else can I say? She did a lot of things. She led a full life. She held many secrets. She lived. She died. She was a human like you and me. She was my Granny. And that's where her real importance begins. It's in the name: Granny, not Grandma. To me, the word "granny" doesn't have the same meanings attached to it as the word "grandma." I have a Grandma. She is the loving, sweet, gives-you-a-cookie sort of grandma. That is not to say that my Granny wasn't like that, but she doesn't radiate the same image. There is something a bit crafty about a granny. You know she isn't entirely perfect; you know she can get into trouble. So if you are looking for romance, adventure, fortune, and fame, I can not guarantee that you will find it here, though I know I can find it. It doesn't matter if my grandmother led the most mundane life of all human existence; what matters primarily, is that I saw something in her that I want to document, and share if you so desire. "There's a lot of history there and ... she left a lot of things behind. I think that there's a lot we can learn from it" (Ellie 9). All I can guarantee is that you will see how her life has affected mine, and I can only hope that something will influence you as well. "What matters is that lives do not serve as models; only stories do that. And it is a hard thing to make up stories to live by. We can only retell and live by the stories we have read or heard. We live our lives through texts" (Heilbrun 37). I am creating a new to serve as a model for myself and for other people. My grandmother has influenced many people in her life, and I have no doubt that she can continue to do so even while her ashes lay on this good earth. So now when people ask me why I chose to write about my grandmother, I will tell them what they don't expect to hear. I will tell them what will not astound them. I will tell them the essential truth. "Because she is a part of me, my story." And maybe just saying that will be enough.
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