This is part of the Shannon’s List Series.
We all have secrets. A secret is something we wouldn’t want anyone to know about. But, secrets are very important to future generations and to leave this world without telling our secret is unfair. Generations of my family have kept secrets, and while these hidden facts may have been devastating at the time, they’ve become important to those of us living in today. A secret isn’t necessarily something shameful. It could just be stories of your childhood, or something important that happened to you in life, but you just kept it to yourself.
I’ve been doing a good bit of reflection regarding my own life, including where I came from and how I got to this moment. That’s to be expected with the current events in my life. I’ve been cleaning out the boxes, making notations of the things that were important to me so that my story doesn’t get lost, as many people’s stories do. I want my children, when they get older and more interested in my life, to be able to find these things. This is important for each one of you too.
I’ve always been interested in the stories of my relatives, including little snippets of their childhood or how they met their spouse. No one has ever thought to write them down, or maybe no one else was ever interested. I come from a divorced family and spent every other weekend with my biological paternal grandparents. My grandmother, Nanny, was from Wellingborough, UK. She used to make me fish and chips when I would visit. She collected spoons, ceramic plates, and porcelain hummingbirds. I loved to listen to her speak with her British accent.
As a teenager, I would still visit Nanny, but infrequently. I asked her how she met my grandfather and she told me that he was an American soldier during WWII and she met him at a fair. They married in England and she moved to Louisiana. At the time, it sounded so romantic, and it really was. My Church of England grandmother totally adored my Catholic Italian-American grandfather. She was devastated when he died. But, when Nanny died, she took some family secrets along with her.
After my grandmother’s death, I felt a strong desire to visit the place where she grew up. It took a few years for me to get there, but the opportunity came in the form of a press trip to London. I opted to extend my visit and take a train to Wellingborough for a meeting with my cousins Kim and Viv. Viv insisted I stay at her home, which was lovely and so very English. I learned from Viv about a family secret, a question needing an answer, and that Nanny died with the answer to the secret, telling no one.
I also learned that Nanny’s sister was still alive. Aunt Margaret resided in the same town where she grew up, Wellingborough, and she invited me over for tea. She knew everything about my life and even had pictures of me as a little girl. We talked and I cried because she reminded me of Nanny, even down to the porcelain birds all over her home. She told me all about my great grandparents and things about that side of the family I had never known. She even passed on some other important secrets, including items my grandmother left in Wellingborough when she married.
On my return journey, the wait at Wellingborough Station was one that was deeply meaningful. The train station was just like it was all those years ago when my grandmother was a new bride. I thought about how brave she had been, leaving everything she had, even her country, for the love of a man. I’m thankful I was afforded an opportunity to discover just a few of her many secrets. We may never find out about the rest.
If you had a secret, would you take it to the grave, or would you see the importance of leaving the information for future generations? Take time to learn about your family members before their memories begin to fade or they are taken from us. Write things down, for yourself and your children.