Monday, April 02, 2007

Tell me a story about my past

Sometimes when I write posts here, it occurs to me that in addition to chatting to the visitors who read my blog posts, I am building up a memory box for Baby. In addition to the news, views and fiction that I post, I am also telling the story of Baby’s growing up years.

Some of Baby’s most favourite stories are about her infancy. “Tell me again about the day when I…..” she says, prompting me to repeat yet another story about the first time I fed her cow tripe (the horror on her face when she felt the fuzz on her tongue), the day I turned around from making her a meal to find that she'd stuck her hand, up to her skinny little elbow, into the family dog's mouth. [Thank God the dog kept his mouth wide open until I could rescue him!]

As I repeat the stories I try as much as possible to stick to the facts. While the stories are meant to be entertaining, they are also about establishing a sense of history for Baby.

They answer questions of her identity - who she is, were she came from, how she came to be where she is, how other family members interacted with her when she was an infant.

" What did Pappa [ her grandfather] say when I......" she asks.

My father passed away when Baby was four, so she has little memory of him. But these stories tell her that she did meet him, interact with him and they had a relationship.

She has no memory of that relationship, or any of the events I relate to her, and to a large extent, I am the reservoir of those memories, as she spent most of her time with me. So I have to make sure that what I tell her is not distorted.

Question: Does your family keep some record of important events in the family, whether orally or written down? Who knows all the interesting stories about your grandparents and their parents and how they lived, what they achieved, and any noteworthy events that could bring a sense of pride to the younger generation? How is this record kept? A blog could be a way for your family /community to tell its stories, and to archive them for the future.

Update: Fate plays its tricks

Hours after I made the above post, I received an email from a distant relative who wanted to know where he fits in within the Senne clan( it is a very large clan.)

The Royal Bafokeng Administration, which manages the affairs of the Bafokeng nation, is updating the database of all its people whether local-based or diaspora. So the young man needed information so he could get listed on the database.

His father is from my village, but the young man grew up mostly with his mother's family and doesn't know much about his paternal heritage. He initially contacted me months ago because we share a surname and he was curious about who I was etc.( we never met in person)

Based on previous info he provided, which was very limited, I could guess which clan he belonged to, and who his oldest known ancestor is (same as mine). I also phoned my mother who offered to chat with him/host him if he decides to come to the village in person to learn more about his heritage.

It's very important to keep family stories alive. Young people who may not seem interested today may very well start asking questions in the future.


DigitalRich said...

Thanks for participating in the 7th edition of 'The Carnival of the Storytellers.' The edition is posted at:


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think all children want to know about their past. Your daughter is lucky that you are helping to preserve the stories for her.

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