When I first began to research my family history, I focused on the facts. The names, the dates, and the places. I had one biological grandma still living and I grilled her for clues in order to find the next piece of data. But, about a year into my genealogy research, I came to the realization that these names, these dates, and these places do not mean much without the stories. So I started listening, really listening, to my grandma’s tales. And that’s how Grandma Borson became more than just a grandmother in my eyes. I began to appreciate her for the life she had lived.
Before I began researching, Grandma B. was just that, my grandma. She was understanding when I beelined it past her and went straight to Grandpa. She was adventurous when she babysat me and my brother, following us into the woods and taking a bit of a tumble down a steep woody hill. She and I admired Christmas lights together and also clapped and shouted during fireworks. In high school, when I wanted to sew a Halloween costume and ended up not having the expertise, she finished it for me. She taught me how to quilt and also made me, and everyone else, quilt after quilt after quilt.
I am writing about Grandma B. now because this last weekend marked the one year anniversary of when we lost her. It was unexpected, as unexpected as it can be for a 88 year old, and it created a hole in our family. For me, my own loss is balanced between the regret of not asking her more and the thankfulness for the stories I did hear.
It was with her stories, those she told orally and those she wrote down, that I was able to see her and other family members in a different light. I got to see my grandma as a little girl as she described how she watched her own grandmother wash her long hair and put it in a bun. I could see her in her twenties when she talked about the double dates she and Grandpa went on with my great-aunt and great- uncle. I saw her as a protective mother when she told the story of how a man broke into her house when her children were young.
On one Mother’s Day, a year or two before Grandma B. passed, I presented her with a guided journal, meant for grandmothers to fill out for their grandchildren. She wrote a lot about the love she had for her family. I’ll finish this blog post with my most cherished entry from this journal, done in my Grandma B.’s own handwriting.