My grandma had four different wigs in four different shades: blonde, dark brunette, red and frosted blonde. Between these four and her actual hair color, a standard-issue honey brown, she had a fresh look for every day of the week.
The things that others find most interesting about us are often not the things we’ve worked hardest for. My nanny, for instance, worked hard to be a good wife, mother, church member and school secretary. But none of that is half as interesting to me as those four wigs she used to wear. Or the time she put a bean deep into her ear canal, and left it there until it sprouted. Or the way she and her sister used to dance on the porch to the radio when her parents were away.
This last bit she told me during a summer vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My nanny was never the type to pull you onto your lap and tell you stories about her life. She doesn't like to impose on people. I don't know what made her open up that night. Maybe it was the vacation mellow, or the whisper of the seagrass covering her voice, or the fact that she’d recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma and hadn’t told anyone about it yet.
People often tell me that they (or their family members) have stories like I wouldn't believe—they really should write a book one of these days. I've stopped asking why they haven't done it yet, because I know what their answer will be. I just don’t have the time right now.
I wish I could tell them, “You don’t have time not to write it. Your life isn’t getting longer, times are not getting easier, and your memory is not getting better. If you don’t do it soon, it’s not going to get done. And you’re going to die with your most precious treasure—your life experience—buried inside your own head."
For many, especially the older generation, it's all too common to shove their stories into a drawer and forget about them, never realizing the hours their grandchildren will spend searching for clues to who and where they come from. Don't leave them looking for a legacy.