“I always wanted to write about my coming to America, where I was able to be successful.” This quote came from an immigrant that never graduated High School and arrived here without speaking English. By the time he made the comment above, the accent was gone and he fit into America 100% and living the American dream. Early in coming to America, life was hard, and when his father died a few years after arriving, he did what young men (or teens) did, went to work to support his mother and two older sisters. A strong why, years of hard work, which included working in various industries (bookkeeping, insurance, installment business), being an entrepreneur (various) and finally sales, helped to support his family, grow a family and eventually have a house in the city and one “in the country.” Upon retirement, he had attained financial freedom and lived the lifestyle he wanted, but never wrote his story.
This is not a unique story, but one of many, where a legacy (not necessarily financial) is passed on as an oral history, with each successive generation passing on the family values and history through their personal filters. Writing is not easy. I remember writing in High School where my imaginative mind often had teachers frowning at the topics I chose. In college, I had to write essays for history classes, one teacher understood my more creative way of explaining (via analogies) while another teacher sent a test back to me writing that I was “basically a f*@# up. Needless to say, this did have a negative impact on my earlier life. While I had some thoughts on writing, these (along with mediocre English grades) banished any thoughts of writing. When Gab and Bec were little, a friend gave me a journal to write down the things we did as a family – not for myself, but to pass on to the girls when they got older. The book sat unused on a shelf. Many years later, as I became an active volunteer, I was asked to write a monthly article. My creativity seeped into these writings, but now, instead of a critical, focused audience (a teacher), I had a more receptive audience that liked the digressions and creativity (made reading the article enjoyable).
Like any skill, it takes time to develop the skill, practice that skill and see how others use the skill (in my case reading). We have all met people that say they want to do something, but do not always want to put in the effort to develop the needed skill(s). The immigrant generations came to this country, where prior to arriving, they believed that the streets were paved with gold, meaning that the United Stated of America was the land of opportunity. They worked very hard to provide for their families, purchase homes and become pillars in their respective communities. The person in the story above, my grandfather, would have been 109 had he still been alive. He was a strong willed man and had few regrets. Even though Grandpa never wrote out his story, it has become part of our family oral history. Maybe, by writing with consistency, besides for sharing lessons and experiences, I will be able to impart a piece of my history to our future generations, to live alongside our family oral stories.