Upon returning to Massachusetts in 2000 after helping take HomeStore.com public, my Italian grandmother was in a local nursing home not far from my house (which is why I chose to live in Plymouth). She was in her mid-nineties and still full of life and laughter. She was the love of my life! She would always ask me when I was going to get married and I’d tell her “not until I find someone as good as you Noni”. She would always chuckle. Throughout the years she would tell wonderful, sometimes sad and incredible stories of her family immigrating to the US from Italy, growing up in the depression and the loss of my grandfather’s eye that would keep him from playing professional baseball. Her stories spoke of a simpler time, of close knit families, friends, community and her faith.
At some point I knew these stories needed to be preserved. So when I would go to visit her in the nursing home, I would bring her and her roommate coffee and donuts and a tape recorder. I told her I wanted to keep her stories with me after she passed for the whole family to enjoy. Sure we can all look at family photos taken over the years of those who have gone before us, but to cement their memories forever in the spoken word is priceless. As we sipped our coffee we’d spend the time chatting into the microphone as she re-told stories of growing up in Plymouth, MA in the early 1900’s, the hardships, the fun and how times were back in those days. From the horse and buggy to the automobile and then some. Some of my favorites were when she and one of her sisters, my Aunty Dolly, got scolded by their mother for wearing red lipstick! Or when she and her sister’s would walk 3-4 miles to a blueberry patch and pick blueberries for the owner when they were around 10 years old. For each pint of blueberries they picked, they would get 5 cents. Upon arriving back home, their mother would take all the monies and give them back a few pennies. Everyone had to contribute to the family finances…that’s just how it was back in those days.
Before I knew it, I had filled three cassettes worth of her stories. She passed away peacefully as my sister Karen and I watched her transition to her eternal rest in November 2001. Several years later I transferred those tapes to CD’s and one Christmas I gave my siblings the CD’s entitled “Conversations with Noni”. We now all have her voice around forever! When I’m cleaning around my house I pop in a CD and listen to my Noni’s stories and hear her laugh all over again. It’s like she’s right there in the room with me. If you don’t want the memories of your grandparents or parents to fade to where the next generation will never know them…I highly recommend it. Let me know what you think…because a voice is worth more than a 1000 photos!