I recently decided to write a biography of my grandmother’s (a.k.a. nana’s) life. Right now, it is in the initial stages, with a few interviews complete. Although it is early in the process, I think a quote from Rodman Philbrick perfectly explains my enthusiasm for this project. “The only real treasure is in your head. Memories are better than diamonds and nobody can steal them from you.” Hearing stories of my nana’s past while watching her expressions is priceless.
My nana has shared with me some of her daring and rebellious moments as well as her scandalous love affairs. (In all honesty, her romantic life was not totally outrageous, but since I know she will be reading this, I’m having a bit of fun). She has also helped me to understand the great differences in lifestyle then and now. From her many examples, it is clear that back when she was growing up, nothing was ever wasted and certain things like bread and butter where considered luxuries.
I have yet to convince my nana how fascinating her history is. She has made comments like “I don’t remember much of anything” or “Another interview, what more is there to tell?” Yet, as I focus on specific questions, she opens up and fills me with more knowledge than I even anticipated. Little does she know that the interviews have only begun and there will be many more before I have a strong enough grasp of her history to write a proper biography. (Again, I know she will be reading this and am sure she will have some words to say about this.)
The main reason I wanted to write this biography was to put my nana’s memories to paper so they are not lost and can be remembered for generations to come. However, I also selfishly hoped to learn more about my grandfather’s (a.k.a. papa’s) past. He passed when I was only 10 years old and I feel like I was deprived of stories he may have told me as I grew older. The fact that I feel I am missing a part of papa’s life makes me crave as much information from my nana’s life as possible to ensure that this feeling of unfinished business does not happen again.
My original intention for this project was for my nana to be the teacher and me to be the student. Although that is still the goal, I also hope that through this project I can impress upon my nana that although she may not be a celebrity, her story is still one of strength, hardship and at times humor. In my eyes, she is a hero, albeit a clumsy one, but a hero nonetheless.