I have attended three funerals in the past year: one for each of my paternal grandparents and one for my elderly neighbour, whose passing still came as kind of a shock despite her age and declining health (she just always seemed to pull through everything, you know? I still miss seeing her pottering around in the garden). One of the things that struck me on all three occasions was how much I learned about each of them when listening to the eulogies. I had no idea that when my Nonna was younger, she had belonged to an Italian women's group that got together to knit clothes for those less fortunate, and that she was still friends with some of those women - for as long as I could remember, she was all about family. I learned that my Nonno left Italy to set up a life in Australia when my Nonna was pregnant with my dad, and that my dad didn't meet his father until he was four years old; my uncle recalled how the family was walking home from a festa in the village one evening, and my dad kept asking his mother why a strange man was trying to hold his hand. And as for my neighbour … well, amongst other things, I learned that she once won a bikini competition at one of Sydney's beaches, which I thought was so awesome but also weird, because I only ever knew her as an elderly woman (albeit a very cool and funny one).
The whole thing really made me wonder about the tales that people have to tell … the everyday and not-so-everyday events that combine to create their life story, and it made me sad that I had never made more of an effort to find out all my grandparents' stories before they passed away - they are all gone now. So I have decided to try to gather as many tales and photographs as I can in order to create a big, crazy family record … I'm thinking that a couple of gatherings with wine and my laptop should kick things off nicely and then I can go from there :)