… When? (Part 1)

If not now, then…

I am a huge fan of the blog “Wait But Why” and its primary written content contributor published a post last year about ancestry and the remarkable and un-mined histories of generations before us. Feeling compelled while looking back urges us almost as a reflex, to also look forward.

What are those things you want to do but haven’t found the courage to do?

How do we find the courage to let go and do all these things?

Once again, I found myself looking back. I’ve uncovered overwhelming courage in my family in the past.

I was lucky enough to know two of my great-grandparents very well. My paternal grandmother’s parents were born in Germany during the aftermath of World War I. I heard stories of inflation so severe that it was surreal and choices made during circumstances that seem unimaginable to us today. For instance– my great-grandmother recounted how her family members were paid wages daily, then twice a day, and immediately after, they would storm to the butcher or grocer and buy whatever they could with it. Then, by the end of the day, they would burn the money for kindling.

Meanwhile, decades later, only a few years after my grandmother was born, my great-grandfather traded his motorcycle for a pile of bricks to rebuild his house after the heavy WWII bombings. Simultaneously, my grandfather, who grew up in Bavaria, playing on the streets, blew off two of his fingers, when a mine left over from the war, detonated in front of him.

My grandmother, however, is my real heroine. The only daughter of four children, I think she was the first feminist in my family– the first of all her brothers to find a job, the first in her family to learn how to drive a car. Here I should add a sidenote that has its own tangential story– my great-grandfather, having only ridden a motorcycle before the war, did not have a driver’s license. Instead, he drove a Goggomobil¬†with a lawn-mower engine that could not take the whole family up a hill (those in the backseat would climb out and meet the car at the crest).

Even short little stories like this– snapshots of the past– can be a crystalizing moment when we realize that this endemically funny situation, bears more saying on the bigger picture. These are real stories, real people, and still worth telling.

Part 2 soon to come.

video by Antonia Hidalgo. Used with permission.

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