Those were the days!

posted in: Blog 4

Beaches, BBQ’s, and outdoor fun of Summer are now making way for school buses and textbooks. Feels kind of melancholy, doesn’t it? These last days of August I find myself reminiscing over the quickly-fading Summer, as well as replaying memories of years gone by. It was during a recent visit from my cousin which got me thinking “Those were the days!”…

Stephen was in town for The Woods Hole film festival. This is the festivals’ 25th year which included over 180 feature and short films. One of the shorts titled  “Window Dressing” is a creative short which my cousin Directed and Produced. He was in town for the screening premier and we decided to connect for lunch at “pie in the sky” – a neat little cafe/bakery in Woods Hole. As we sat in that creative landscape, our conversation quickly turned to “family”…

Growing up, there was always a get together, celebration or holiday which brought the Girouard clan (over 20 cousins) together. Our fathers came from a large family (7 boys and a girl) and grew up along the train tracks in North Cambridge (just outside Boston). Their dad had spent several years in the seminary before landing a job as a baker at Hathaways Bakery (where he met my ‘future-nana’). Grandpa would later drive cabs and take on odd jobs to help support the growing family (imagine eight kids – whoah! Can you say “Eight is Enough“?).

If you’re like me, you sometimes ponder what it was like when our parents grew up. As Stephen and I wondered aloud, we were sure there were some fascinating stories hidden away in the past – I mean, 7 boys and a girl…under one roof?

The conversation got us thinking about our own early years spent with the extended family. We remembered the family picnics “in the country” at “papas house”. Papa Carchia was our great grandfather – the Italian-immigrant patriarch who kept a vast garden like he was back in the old country. He lived “walden style” on 32 acres of land in Lexington – now a much developed suburb of Boston. But back in the 60’s and 70’s Papas house in the woods (he built it himself) would pass for “country” for most city dwellers. We would pick wild blueberries (they were everywhere!), chew rhubarb and swim in the above-ground pool. There were lots of games for me and my fleet of cousins (shock-alert: before ‘screens’ we actually spent whole days running around at play). Those were good times, we agreed. We remember watching old video footage – 8mm black and white type – but we couldn’t figure out where it might be…

As we time travelled back to the present, Stephen posed a couple questions which really made me think. He was interested in reconnecting to his father through memories of the past. You see, in the late 80s, Stephen had lost his father (my Dads brother) in a helicopter crash. It was pretty big news around Boston (story here). I remember this tragedy vividly and can only imagine how difficult this was for Stephen and the rest of his family….

I could sense our visit to the past had awakened something for Stephen. He was searching for a way to reconnect. It made me realize I sometimes take my own living father for granted. I can call or visit whenever I like. If I want to know what it was like growing up, I can call and ask him right now (which, incidentally I DID so I could confirm some of the details in this story – thanks DAD!).

The sad truth is there are only three remaining siblings of my Father’s once-large family. The stories and connections are growing dimmer. It’s up to those of us living to help keep the memories alive. How? By asking questions and sharing stories like this one.

I guess the point of this post is to inspire you to seek out someone in your life who can help you connect with the past – not just to re-live or recapture time gone by, but to gain more clarity about the present. Ask questions. Listen. We (myself included) can too easily get distracted and caught in the go-go of today. We lose the significance of where we come from. This can’t bring back someone we’ve lost, but it can help create a bridge between the past, present and future.

Is there a favorite story or characteristic about your ancestors you’d like to share? Let us all know by leaving a comment below. And thanks for keeping their memories alive.

Sincere thanks for your continued support and encouragement…

4 Responses

  1. Lorraine Nielsen
    | Reply

    Wow Gary, I can so relate. I come from a large family and so does my husband. My parents were farmers in Kansas during WWII. Their parents came as infants from Luxembourg. My dad and mom each were of 10 and my mom had 9 brothers! I have heard many stories over my lifetime and I made sure to talk to my mom about her growing up during the Depression and life on the farm years before she passed away. I lost her last November and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to learn; she was 96 when she died. My dad is 97 and lives by himself in the house he built; he was a carpenter after farming. I live in MT and he lives in CA. so every chance I had/have I’ve always made it a point to talk about their lives. My dad is the last of his siblings still living and my mom was the last of her’s. I also have around 100 cousins, but I don’t stay in touch…too far away and they’re much older than me. My sister and a couple of brothers live closer and see some of them. My husband’s nanny and papa came from Ireland through Ellis Island and we’ve heard a lot of stories, also. Like you say…keep the stories alive! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. pianoxcape
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing Lorraine – it’s amazing how much has changed in such a short time…

  3. Felix N Zapata
    | Reply

    You know, coming from a family of 9 kids and living in a tiny 3 bedroom 1 bath house really had it’s advantages; one not being trying to practice piano while my siblings tried to watch TV … lol…! But we got through it as a big happy family … although things are different now as some of them have passed on as have my parents …

    Spending my early summers camping with family and relatives at Tin Can Beach, now known as Bolsa Chica Beach in SoCal are among my fondest memories … Love, laughture, good food and strong family values really helped to mold me to become what I hoped, the person my parents would be proud of … even now I still relate stories of my grandparents, as well as uncles and aunts to my nieces and nephews as well as “great” nieces and nephews so that they, too, can have some inkling of those who came before them in the family tree…

  4. pianoxcape
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing Felix – I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to share a single bathroom amongst 9 kids!

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