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Updated: Dec 29, 2018

By Sherri Rabinowitz:

One of the things I have never really understood is why people never listen to their elders’ stories. It is important not just so that our forebears can share with us, but so that we can learn a bit about ourselves. People don’t really change; there is always a child within an older person. I loved to listen to my parents and grandparents. To hear stories of their childhood was to learn lessons not just of history, but of personal history. Even after hearing them several times, parts of the story that you didn’t notice the first time around tend to pop up. For instance . . .

When my mom was a little girl, she was pretty and shy and very much full of adventure, like her favorite heroines in the movies. One day as she and her friend were arriving at school, a mean bully locked them out. Back then, there were truant officers, so they really didn’t know what to do. They had no way into the school.

So, my mom said they should go into town and shop, and that is what they did. They went window shopping for awhile and eventually got hungry, so they went to buy some fruit from a vendor. Then, from a shop behind the vendor, they heard the radio: the police were looking for them! With big, scared eyes, they looked at each other, quickly paid the vendor, and ran off.

They ran all the way to my mom’s house and hid under the table in the kitchen. A tablecloth draping over it hid them from everyone who came in and out of the kitchen. Suddenly, there was a knock on the back door, and Grandma answered it. It was the police looking for my mom and her friend—the school apparently notified the police but not Grandma or Grandpa. Grandma, of course, was shocked and upset and called my Grandpa, who naturally knew nothing about it and worried he was going to have to close his shop and come right home.

I asked my mom whether she felt bad since she was right there, given that Grandma and Grandpa were so worried. And she replied, “Of course, but I was terribly scared of the policeman and that he would take us to jail for truancy.” I asked her if they really did that, and she said, “No. Where do you think you get your imagination? It’s not all from Dad,” which made me laugh.

So about 10 minutes later, tired Grandpa came home and sat at the table . . . and noticed a movement of the tablecloth. He picked up the corner and saw the frightened girls. He looked at them, both amused and annoyed (I know that expression, I brought it out in Grandpa’s face often enough myself. He might have had a very serious expression on his face, but his eyes were laughing). Mom read it too, and slowly came out, holding her friend’s hand and said, “Sorry. But it was not our fault!” She told them all about the bully in school, and the policeman explained that he was not here to take her to jail, just to tell her parents that she was missing, and he was glad it was not more serious.

Mom’s friend hugged her and left with the policeman. Grandma had that look that parents get of wanting to hug and spank their child at the same time. Not surprising to me knowing my grandma, she chose to hug her little girl. “Next time, call your father or at least go to his shop.” Mom promised she would.

This was one my mom’s favorite stories; she looked at it as one of her adventures. She was so cute when she told it—you could see the little girl in the woman’s eyes. From this story and other tales, I learned that my mom had a sense of adventure, that she was very mischievous and that I inherited that from her.

I think we learn so much from listening to stories from our elders. We also get a sense of what the world was like when our elders were young, how much life has changed, and what we have learned as a civilization. It is so very important to always listen to stories from your elders, not just because it means a lot to them, but because if you really listen, you learn something more than just their history; you learn about yourself and the society we live in.

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