You’re running out of time.

I’ll bet you’re like me.  Whether you’re Cherokee or not we have a few very important things in common.  Let me tell you just a little about myself and see. One of my earliest memories is sleeping on a cot in front of the fireplace of a very old and cold log house. I was so small and huddled against my fathers back trying to stay warm.  It seems like we usually had eggs scrambled with wild onions every morning.  I believe it’s a Cherokee thing but to me, it was just breakfast.  I didn’t know that the iron kettle I played on in front of our house had boiled saline water (from springs once owned by Sam Houston) down to salt for Cherokee people. It was just my toy. I didn’t know that road in front of our house was made over the graves of Cherokee orphans. See, I never asked questions.  Even when my father said that his grandma cried because she had to leave her spinning wheel behind, I didn’t ask where.  (I learned later it was his gg grandma.)

Maybe there are important things to learn from the lives of your own parent’s or grandparents. Things you don’t know enough about to be able to pass them on to your own descendants? Maybe you’re like me and didn’t ask enough.

When I was grown and had children I found an old news clipping in my mom’s cedar chest about a murder, and my father had taken the photo. By then he was greatly paralyzed from a stroke and couldn’t really talk, but the photo made me dig deeper into the chest. There were Cherokee and Choctaw letters that would have made the Kilpatricks salivate. Beneath them was a magazine article that told how my dad and grandfather had worked on the Manhattan Project. Hundreds of tribal people did, but I’d never heard this story in my life!

Right now you probably carry a cell phone around with a video camera built into it.  One that you can put in front of an elder relative or neighbor and collect memories that might otherwise be lost forever.  My mother had Alzheimers, but even when she didn’t know me anymore she easily remembered working for J. Edgar Hoover and the little dog figurines he collected in his office.

What about your own memories? What fragments of your life are your grandchildren going to know? Take the time to record yourself.  Tell what it felt like to hold a child, or be held as one.  Photos can’t capture that.  Tell what places smelled like, what the sounds were, and what were you feeling? Ask people you interview why they made the decisions they made? We’re collecting Cherokee stories, but your memories are going to be important to someone someday no matter what your ancestry is.  Please…..please….. don’t let the time run out.  Pass on all that you can.

We’re collecting Cherokee stories, but whatever your heritage is, your memories are going to be important to someone someday.  Please…..please….. don’t let the time run out.  Pass on all the stories and memories that you possibly can.

Red bird Smith – Beinecke Manuscript Library

I have two cassette tapes that I recorded asking my father about his life and what little I could understand of his answers.  I’ve transferred that and the two hour VHS tape of my mother and her twin, both with Alzheimers, telling the stories on each other.  Since then it’s become natural when people are telling stories of their life, for me to pull out my phone camera and say “do you mind if I record this?” So far not one person has ever said no.

If there are things in your life that people don’t need to know right now but you’d like to pass on to others, there’s a way to safely preserve them for a future generation.

I have told my children and grandchildren the same favorite stories a hundred times,  but maybe it’s what none knows to ask that needs to be saved.  Are you like me?