Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Friday, November 30, 2007

Your Maiden Name and Other Vital Facts about You

One in four adult Canadians have no idea what their grandmother's maiden name was (according to a recent survey by www.ancestry.ca, an online resource for family history), and I imagine that the results for people in the U.S. would be about the same. It's a shame to lose precious parts of our family history, so it's important for us to tell our grandchildren who we are, who we were, and what we have done in our lives before they or their parents were even dreamed of. One in five Canadians don't know what their grandfathers did for a living, and I would guess that even fewer would know what their grandmothers did, even though throughout history many women have indeed worked for pay or done valuable volunteer work.

This maiden-name business is an issue that I feel strongly about. If I were getting married today, I would keep the name I had for 22 years before my marriage. As it is, I inserted my maiden name, Wendkos, into my byline sometime after I began being published when I got that a-ha! moment and realized that no one who had known me before my marriage would ever connect Sally Olds with Sally Wendkos.

With the holidays coming up, many grandmas will be lucky enough to spend time with your grandchildren. This will be a perfect time for you to tell them about your past -- what your name once was (if you have changed it) and what some of the important aspects of your life have been. One helpful tool for this is "For My Grandchild: A Grandmother's Gift of Memory," published by Sterling Publishing Co. in affiliation with AARP. It's a beautiful hardcover workbook and sells for only $9.95 in the U.S. and $12.95 in Canada. (Disclosure: the book I am currently writing, about activities grandmothers can do with their grandchildren, will also be published by Sterling.)

Have fun with your stories!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Interviews by Fifth Graders

It was like being a surrogate grandmother when three fifth-grade students at a local school interviewed Mark and me as part of a project involving a number of older community residents. My interviewers, Amy, Carolyn, and Ryan, all had lists of questions to ask, which ranged all over the place, and so I didn't talk to them as much as I had thought I would about the children in Nepal. They were somewhat interested in the lives of the village children -- but they had other questions to ask.

One of them did ask me "What was the youngest person you met there?" I told them that I had held babies in the village -- and that I was very lucky, because the babies don't wear diapers. The parents know when to hold the baby away from them, but I didn't know -- I was just lucky! They were very interested in the fact that the babies wear only shirts and thought they should definitely wear something on their bottoms. I used this as a teaching moment to say that this is what I love about travel -- the chance to see how people in other cultures do things, and that the things we take for granted in our own cultures are done very differently in other places. Amy picked up on this right away and said, "So people over there would think it was a waste of time and money to put diapers or pants on a baby!"

They asked how many children I had, and then how many grandchildren. They wanted to know the names & ages of the grandchildren. (They didn't ask this about my children!) When they heard that my oldest grandchild is 25, they wanted to know if I had any great-grandchildren.

They asked "What was the silliest thing you ever did?" I thought a minute, laughed, and said, "Putting this red color in my hair, which I just did this year after having been gray for a long time!" When I told this to a friend, she reminded me of another silly thing we did. When our kids went out trick-or-treating, we put on costumes and went out ourselves. So this proves my maxim: "Everybody has to grow old, but you can stay immature forever!"

Two of the interviewers were pretty good about listening to my answers to their questions, but the t hird needs to learn a few things about interviewing! She interrupted the other kids, interrupted me, and talked about herself!

The children will get together with the project coordinator and will write a skit based on some of the interviews. There were three fifth grade classes doing this and a number of different people being interviewed, so their play may not have anything to do with anything Mark and I said. But we'll go to the play on December 19th and find out.

It was a fun experience! And it's the kind of thing that you can do with your own grandchildren. I'll have to see whether any of mine are interested in interviewing us.