Family History

…and I still wonder

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Edith Douglas as a young girl

I should have asked my grandparents more questions when I was younger. Now it’s too late to ask them, and there are some things I will never know. And I’m not only referring to “big issues” like politics, careers, or religious beliefs. I’m also referring to the smallest of details. Small details that may, in the end, not matter one whit, but still leave me wondering, reminding me that I should have asked my grandparents more questions.

My father’s mother, Edith Douglas, was known in our family as Granny. It always seemed a less appealing name for a grandmother, but we called her that anyway because she wanted us to. My father’s mother was elegantly tall and thin-shouldered. She wore snug gray curls and had a tan complexion from time spent out of doors. She always wore cotton housedresses as most women did then. Her silver-rimmed eyeglasses with ornamental corners and temple pieces framed her light blue eyes. When she was lost in thought or just working in the kitchen, she could look stern, but she wasn’t. Her broad, friendly smile flashed often and revealed an easy-going yet industrious personality. I had known her to butcher chickens and feed kittens buttermilk from the carton all within the passing of ten minutes’ time.

I never asked her about the one thing I noticed every time I was near her: the nail on one of her index fingers had a crease, a break, down the center. I always wondered what caused the crease.  I’m sure she would have told me had I asked. It appeared to have been caused by a painful experience. But then again, perhaps not. Maybe it had always been there. Maybe it had just grown that way. I remember that nail simply because I never asked about it, and I still wonder.

By Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

4 replies on “…and I still wonder”

This is such a poignant piece — all the questions one thinks of asking ones parents and/or grandparents when it’s too late to get an answer. I sometimes think just the questions themselves can make a start for a writing project, imagining several possibilities, speculating which are more or less likely. And for kids, have them come up with some questions to ask their grandparents and then asking them for answers, not just the general ones, but what about each kid’s grandparent is unique to that person that the kid could ask about. Probably you’ve already done this.

Liked by 1 person

Thanks for commenting. No, I haven’t done this yet with my students, but plan to this spring. My goal (one of ’em anyway) for this year is to have students write on topics that reveal how unique and “worthy of writing” their lives/experiences are. This would fit that goal.


Wonderful musing, but I’m wondering does maybe someone else in the family know the answer to your question. My mom had a crooked finger from a steering wheel (before power steering) spin that broke her finger. I had a Granny too! And one of my friends from Canada has kids that call their grandmother, Granny. There are so many worthy of writing experiences. Enjoy this exploration with your students.


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