Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” – Maya Angelou

Two weekends ago I flew to Kansas with my mom to attend a family wedding in Wichita. At breakfast the morning after the wedding, we sat with my mother’s sister (Aunt Jodie), and looked through old photos of my grandfather in high school. That got us to talking about his early days, starting out in business with a young family. We debated the details of a little sundries store that he purchased on Murdock St. in Wichita, and whether or not my mom had been born yet. I knew the answer because my grandfather had written a personal essay about the Depression for me for a high school history assignment in which he talked about this store. (The next day my cousin John drove me down Murdock and we wondered if this house was the store.)

But as we sat there, at breakfast, recalling Grandfather’s dry sense of humor and taciturn manner, I wished I’d had the chance to record him, or that there was some recording of his voice, telling his own story – even though I have this great six-page essay about his and the family’s trials during the Depression.

But since I can’t go back in time, here’s something I can do, and something you can do too. Next visit to Kansas, I can ask one of my Wichita cousins, with their Midwestern drawls, to read our grandfather’s essay, and I’ll record them. It won’t be the real thing, but it will go a long way. Like Maya Angelou says up top — it takes the human voice to infuse words with deeper meaning. Then I can make CD copies for my family and/or break the essay into several mp3 files and post it for them to download.

His work is done

Here’s another grandfather (not mine) who covered all the bases. Joe Shannon, of Shrewsbury, Mass., wrote an autobiography for his kids and grandkids, so they’d know what life was like for him, but he also wanted  me to record him so his family would have some stories in his own voice. Joe tells about living in England in 1939 as a teenager at the start of World War II as one of the most challenging times of his life. He also answers the curious question: “What do you call senior citizen sheep?”

To listen, click HERE.

Get out those cassette or digital recorders — if possible add a mic — find a quiet place and go!

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