The first installment in a new series sharing my grandparents’ story in their own words
Each life fades into the mists of time. This is the way of all men. The memories and traces of ourselves we leave behind in others is all that remains. These are Voices of Heritage.
If you’ve read about me on The Farmers Lamp, you know my maternal grandparents are a great part of who I am. Even as I write this, my heart fills with streams of emotions welling up in my eyes.
They contributed more to who I am than anyone else. They shared their love, knowledge, and skills in farming, gardening, and life with me. Their investment in me has spilled over into my children.
Isn’t that beautiful? By investing in others, we invest in generations we may never know. What will our children and grandchildren say of their heritage?
Many moons ago, as part of a homeschool history project, my young boys sent Papa and Granny two blank cassette tapes. Do you remember cassette tapes, that tells you how long ago. The boys sent some questions and asked them to share their life stories by recording them on the tapes.
These recordings are now a family treasure. My oldest son recently gave me a device to transfer these recordings onto my computer. Words cannot touch the thrill that flooded me when I hit the play button and once again heard those familiar, beloved voices.
Over a series of posts I want to share their stories with you, The Farmer’s Lamp family, just as they told them to the boys. It’s my hope their story will inspire us, take us on the wings of reminiscence, and hug our hearts. I hope you enjoy my Voices of Heritage.
Papa was an American Indian, the 4th of 8 children. He was born and raised in what was then called “the bad lands.” This is an area in Louisiana between the village of Florien and Hornbeck. These are two little bitty towns. It’s filled with hills and hollers. I remember stories of outlaws escaping to the bad lands. The law wouldn’t follow them in there because there are just too many places for ambush and hiding out.
Papa’s parents ran the only gristmill in the area at that time. They ran it off of Toro Creek. He would walk through the woods to school, it really was a couple of miles. The trail came out near the school and he would take his place among the other children in the one room school. When he was in the third grade, he had to quit school to stay home and help his family run the mill.
My grandmother was born to parents who did not speak much of their heritage. We know they were considered half breeds. My grandmother was one of 8 daughters. Her parents were disappointed she was not a boy. They wouldn’t even give her a name. The doctor who attended the home delivery filled out the birth record and named her Lona Bivens. Giving her his last name as her middle name.
We must not judge the actions of those in the past in light of our present. Every generation has its own culture, its own experiences. It’s unfair to them and to ourselves to assume we can understand what led them to their decisions. Hopefully, we can learn from their mistakes and their successes. We all hope the mistakes of our lives are examples to our children and not repeated. The only thing any of us can do is the best we can do at the time we have to do a thing. We cannot expect more or less from others.
Let’s start at the beginning.
“Papa, do you remember the first time me and you met?”
“Yeah.” *giggles that impish little boy giggle of his* “The first time we met? You was a little ole bitty kid then.”
“I come to stay all night with Edna (one of Papa’s sisters).”
“You sho did.”
“You was a curly headed mean ugly thang then (laughter).”
“You didn’t like me much and I just picked at you all the time didn’t I? But you eventually loved me, it took a long time tho’.”
Both laugh. A laugh that only comes from over 65 years of life lived side by side.
Granny moves on to one of my favorite stories. We had Papa tell it so many times as kids. Even after all those years he still laughs about it like a mischievous little boy. He was always a jokester, up for a laugh! I’ll let you hear him tell it!
“Tell me about the time you turned your Mama over in the outhouse.”
I look forward to sharing with you the stories they recorded for us in this Voices of Heritage series. The boys and I not only learned about Papa and Granny but about ourselves. They shared stories of people we never knew of before. People who no one else may even talk about anymore, but are now known to us.
One of the many mysteries of this life is how the impact of a life is never known to the one living it. We may often feel insignificant and of no influence. When the story of our life is told, the people who are affected and the ways they are affected would surprise each of us, for good and for bad. How do you want the story of your life to be recorded? I know I want to leave a legacy of love, enduring encouragement, and lasting laughter.
You can read more in our series at Voices of Heritage: An Engagement Story; Voices of Heritage: A Christmas Story; and Voices of Heritage: Another Christmas Story. Look for more installments in the series.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your family and friends. Leave your thoughts in the comments below or contact me personally.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack