Our legacies are passed down from one generation to another. The world is connected by stories, memories, traditions, dreams and hopes. Waxing philosophical I reflect on the legacies of my parents, grandparents, and other family members. What have I learned from the past? My feeling of security and continuity comes from knowing there were caring adults in my life. My legacy means developing and passing on a timeless part of me.
My love of music and languages are part of the legacies I inherited, and I passed on to my children. Also the love of travel and experiencing other cultures and countries. My father dabbled in woodworking as his hobby for most of his adult life. We still have and enjoy the various pieces of furniture which he carefully inscribed and dedicated to particular family members. Also with his name, John Niemczura, he added his title artisan and included the type of wood and stain he used. The fastidiousness and attention to detail are two qualities I learned early. He gifted many of his creations to various community groups in and around Pueblo, Colorado.
My mother’s talents besides music and writing beautiful poetry and prose included her beautiful sewing and garments she made us. One of her last gifts was a hand knit sweater with intricate roses knitted into the pattern. She encouraged us to read, write and create. Leaving a legacy does not have to have a fixed monetary amount. More personal and meaningful are handmade articles which we pass down from one generation to another.
During my college years in the US and in Germany, I was unaware that my parents saved all my letters I had written them. Each daughter had a large sized plastic trash bin brimming with our correspondence and photos we had sent them. As Goethe said, “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” After our parents had passed, one of my sisters destroyed all the letters our parents had saved. Someday I will open that plastic bin and peruse the letters written during my formative years. As I take stock of what I have done in the past and start thinking more of legacies, I realize the entire spectrum of human emotions which come into play: hope, fear, love, sense of accomplishment, disappointment, pride, joy, gratitude, and contentment. In the same spirit, we purchased a metal foot locker for each of our children and saved everything from newspapers and magazines on the day they were born to all sorts of school projects and report cards.
The memoir I wrote, A Past Worth Telling, the gifts of music and foreign languages and travel to many countries are included in my legacy. As part of a larger community, I am mindful of the history before me and after me. We all have shared wisdom to learn from one another. A large portion of my legacy was imparted to my students as I taught German over the years including video conferences and projects with schools in Germany.
Said Goethe, “Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.” What will your legacy be?