There is nothing more powerful in this world than listening to your grandparents weave their memories through stories, photos and artifacts.
“Back when we were children, we had to ski to our one room schoolhouse…”
“When my mother was alive, she would create the uniforms for our troops…”
“I remember coming home after World War II from Sweden….”
“We didn’t have a television in our home…”
“I didn’t let your mother buy a radio until she could afford it…”
In my family and many Finnish families, history passes from the hands of the elders to the babies through random family dinners that lead to life conversations to grandmother handing you a necklace to wear after graduation to finding a photo of your great grandfather dressed head-to-toe in uniform, knee deep in the snow.
For a long time, I would sit in history classes being able to raise my hand and say my family members fought in that war, nursed soldiers on that battlefield and experienced Russian control. Many students around me would stare and wonder why I knew these facts or why I even cared to know.
So while sitting waiting for a Commissioner Study Session to start and hearing a conversation about finding family members from history, my heart fluttered from the feeling of familiarity. Even though those city members were talking about the American Revolution, I could still hear the same pride and joy in their voices as I would hear from my grandfather when he completed our family tree.
While my family’s current historian position belongs to my mother who took her father’s work and made it digital, which allowed new cousins to reach out through Facebook. I hope to take her position one day and collect all my family photos to create a digital archive, so all my grand kids can look at their great great great grandfather in his uniform.
Those kids will also have to shuffle through all the photos I have taken in Abilene and wonder how a Finnish-Canadian ended up in Kansas. To be honest, the answer may be written in these columns.
AJ Raaska is a reporter with the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle