So Much History | Teen Ink

So Much History

December 13, 2008
By Anonymous

When thinking of our own history, we tend to only think of what major event happened at lunch yesterday. It is fairly rare that people take into account the important major events that happened in our family’s history some years ago. Having a chance to interview my grandmother on our family’s history, was an eye opening opportunity for me. My grandmother not only told me of how our family came to this country, but also how it was like for her at my age when she was growing up. It is the most amazing thing to think that amongst all of the history of the world every family has its own history, almost enough to write a whole history book on.

One question that always lingers around in people’s minds is, “Where did my family originate from?”, and “Why did they choose to come to the United States?” When asking these similar questions to my grandmother I was surprised by her answers. My grandmother’s grandmother was born in Sigdahal, Norway, where she married and had my grandmother’s mother. My grandmother’s mother’s father, moved to Wisconsin to work in the logging industry to earn money in order to bring his family over to the U.S. as well. When my grandmother’s mother was nine months old she and her mother were finally able to come over to the United States. Their experience however; wasn’t exactly what they had bargained for. When her family boarded the ship, because they were poor they were to travel in the bottom of the ship. The conditions were unbearable, with scarce amounts of dry food to eat and motion sickness all of the time. People barely survived the long trip, and those who did were extremely lucky. When my grandmother’s family finally arrived to New York City the father was there waiting to pick them up. My grandmother’s grandmother worked as a maid for a judge and sewed clothes for other people to make some more money on the side. My grandmother’s grandfather had learned much from the logging industry which helped him to build a house for his family. My grandmother said even after the many years of living in America her mother’s family still just couldn’t seem to adjust to living there. On my grandmother’s father’s side there were four generations of our family that lived in the United States. Her father’s side of the family was all farmers, who left the farming industry to go to Montana. After many years passed my grandmother’s mother met her father in Wisconsin where they gave birth to my grandmother and her two older brothers and sister. All of the events which occurred in the past would lead to a new and exciting lifetime ahead of my family.

When thinking of your grandparents as teenagers it is hard to imagine their experiences being anywhere similar. However; the experiences my grandmother had at my age were fairly similar and ones that I could relate to. My grandmother grew up on a dairy farm, but during the school year she attended a boarding school and lived with a family about an hour away from where her family lived. When my grandmother was a junior in high school she joined as many extracurricular activities as she could. She was in similar activities as we are in today such as; drama and speech and debate. There were 20 students in the classes and most of her teachers were relatives so on weekends some of the teachers who were relatives would come home with her and help her with homework. The school had dances once a month just as we do today however; the types of dancing that they did then were much different then they are now. My grandmother told me of the many dances they would do and her favorite was a dance called the Jitterbug. To have fun my grandmother and her friends would do similar things that my friends and I do now. On weekends her friends would come home and ski and build snow banks to ski off of. She and her friends would also play games such as; checkers, dominos, and old maid croquet, horseshoes, softball, and listened to music with her friends while singing along to their favorite songs. “I had a good time growing up,” my grandmother would say repeatedly, but the good times didn’t last as long as she had hoped for. My grandmother had dreams of becoming an airline hostess, but because of other things that got in the way of those dreams she was unable to. She also wanted to become a lawyer but back then she was put down for those dreams because no women were lawyers. Instead my grandmother worked at a hospital and did bookkeeping for them. Her Aunt had put money aside for her to go to college, but instead my grandmother put that idea down when she met my grandfather. My grandmother was 17 at the time when she met my grandfather and married him; just a year older than me. They were married for only two years before he left for the war. My grandmother explained to me that many girls would marry their sweetheart right away because they knew they would be leaving for the war soon after. After my grandmother was married and the war struck out she struggled with a lot of things. She told me that only owned two dresses compared to the many dresses she had owned as a child. Times were getting harder and she was definitely one to realize that. Even though many years have gone by the experiences and traditions that my grandmother experienced were very similar to the ones that I have and am still experiencing today.

It is the most amazing thing to think that amongst all of the history of the world every family has its own history, almost enough to write a whole history book on. Even from all of information my grandmother had given me from the interview; it is still only a portion of the extraordinary history that lies inside of my family. Never do we take a chance to really think of the obstacles and struggles that our families went through to even just become free citizens. There is so much that is taken for granted these days that sometimes it is hard to understand what it really was like for our families so many years ago. That is why it is so important to continue on reliving and passing down these stories of our family’s history from generation to generation in order to keep alive what understanding we still have. Being able to have the chance to interview my grandmother about our family’s history is one experience I will never forget. As a part of the many families who have unbelievable stories and history I have an important job to make sure those stories are never forgotten.


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