April 25th, 2007


My Grandmother's Advice

When I was a teenager, my younger brother and I decided to interview my maternal grandmother, Clara Baker Cohen, to find out a little bit about family history and her life. We interviewed her on the afternoon of March 13, 1983. I know that, because I was obnoxiously meticulous about noting the exact date and time of the recording. At the time, my grandmother was 75 years old, and about to turn 76 on April 12.

Shortly after she died in 1992, I made a bunch of copies of the original tape, and I discovered both the original and the copies among the stuff in my Mom's house. Thanks to Nomi's new toy, we've now transferred the interview to mp3, which means I was able to listen to it on my iPod. Thanks to my younger self, I have some of the information about my mother's side of the family that I thought I had lost forever when she died. (I can ask my uncle Robert questions, but I've still lost my Mom's perspective on family history.)

(I've become much more interested in family history since Mom died. Her grandparents and great-grandfather are buried in the Pride of Boston cemetery in Woburn, Massachusetts, and Nomi and I are planning to visit their graves and photograph the monuments. But I digress.)

At the end of the tape, I asked my grandmother if she had a message for her future descendants. This is what she said:

First, I hope you have a happy life. Now, what is a happy life? My father-in-law used to say that life is just a dream, and some people are lucky and have a pleasant dream, and others are unlucky and have a nightmare dream.

That's true. But a great deal has to do with your own attitude. Of course everybody has sorrows, and problems, and setbacks; I had them too. But the fact is that always I measured my good fortune against my bad fortune, and I always felt as though I came out ahead.

Among the many other things I'll post about when I have more time is family history, as I come to discover it....