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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Friday, December 02, 2005

Family history

I've been working on a family recipe book for several years now. Or working on it, then letting it sit for many months at a time really. But I decided it's going to get done this month and moving ahead full throttle now. It's been interesting.
I started this when Mom was still alive, we talked about it several times. The last time I had a lucid conversation with her, she was vacationing in Kona, right before flying back to Fairbanks and being admitted to the hospital.
We talked about plans for the kids and I to visit that summer and all the recipes she'd been earmarking for me to include in the book. I had questions to ask her and stories I needed her to tell me...I never got that opportunity.

I sit in the garage at my art table, going over and over the family pictures, recipes that swirl up forgotten memories and Mom's writing. The writing gets to me the most. I have bits from her school days, teen years and even college....so much of it leaves me with more questions. I see so much of myself there, so many of the same emotions and attitudes. There was a time I never wanted to admit it. But it's true. I wish I'd known more of her vulnerabilities, more of her angst and heartbreak when I was a teen. She kept so much of that from me, believing children needed to see their parents in a better light. But all it did is convince me she could never understand.
Her writing reveals that she did, all too well.

I found some of the recipes she marked for me, bits of paper sticking out of old recipe books, with short notes reminding her which ones she wanted me to have.
I read her scrawling handwriting, I cut and paste the recipes and photos, these bits of my life that tell such a small part of the story and try to sort out my jumbled emotions. I talk to her, I ask her for more answers and some comfort.

There was a picture of Mom and I at Grandma's house, when Trevor was a wee little man. It must have been 1991. I'm sitting off to her side, we're both looking towards some unseen person, involved in a conversation. I look at the me that is there, right next to Mom and think "Did you even realize how close she was to you? Did you think about what it would be like if you couldn't reach over and touch her? Did you really seize that moment, when she was still there?"

I want to be THAT Ren for just a moment. I want to reach over and hug her one more time, ask her the questions that haunt me, let her know much I cherish her presence, and how I see clearly now, that we are more alike than we were ever different. My heart aches to BE in that picture sitting next to her once more.
And I start to cry again.
I've done that a lot today.
My aunt wrote me an email today, telling me that she's been missing my Mom so much lately, probably due to the holidays. I don't know if it's the holidays or not, I thought my meanderings into the past had done it. Or perhaps there's a deeper family connection here, heartstrings responding to tribal distress.
I have no answers. I don't know how to do anything but question. I know I want to tell my stories even more now, to leave a clearer picture of my life and passions for my children and my children's children. I want to gather up every precious moment, every story and scrap of life and somehow preserve it for those yet to come. It can't be done. In the end, they will only have slices of my story, questions of their own that can't be answered and ponderings meant for another generation.
Most of my stories will die with me, just as my Mother's did. The stories still matter, the stories still live, they always do.

I will gather up the bits of memories surrounding food, family and celebrations. I will share these with those I love dearly and we will have a piece of our story together, a piece of our past when we walked closely. Within those pages are more stories than can be told, more memories than any of us can say, and many more waiting to unfold. I'm grateful for the journey so far, and the incredible people I've shared it with.

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