Intergenerational Memories

We are linked by blood, and blood is memory without language. ~Joyce Carol Oates

Recently when I was going through family records, I found a copy of the pages that my mother and her siblings wrote about their memories of childhood. I remember vividly hearing my mother tell a story that happened when she was a small child, playing in the sandbox. Here is my mother’s telling of this unusual event:

“We had a sandbox by the dinner bell, which Mom used to ring at mealtime. One Sunday afternoon while I was playing in the sand, I heard a clomp, clomp, clomp, not quite like a horse. I looked up and here was an elephant, dragging a chain from one of his feet. Had I not been looking at a child’s book a few days before and asked Mom if an elephant is to be afraid of, her answer was no, then I probably would have been very afraid. My folks were not home but I remember two girls coming out of the house, Aunt Sarah and another girl. One on each side of me, took me by the hand, and took me to the side of the barn and we looked in the window. The elephant had squeezed through the horse barn door and he was in the silage chute, eating silage. Two men came after him. They had an awful time getting him turned around in that small area with the chain on his feet — he kept stomping on the chain. When they finally did get him out the back door, they put the chain back where it belonged and gave him a drink from the tank of spring water. It was fun to watch him use his trunk to suck up the water and then curl it around and put it into his mouth. The men and the elephant were soon on their way, one man leading him and the other came behind with a whip. The elephant had gotten loose in the circus and ran away.”

Uria R. Byler was a young boy at this time. He was several years older than Mom and his family lived across the road. The story goes that he had gone into the house and excitedly reported that there was an elephant going by. Apparently Uria had a propensity for “telling stories” as the Amish call making up stories from one’s imagination. His mother’s reply was, “Uria, stop telling stories.” When it was discovered that he wasn’t making it up, Uria’s father hitched up the horse to the buggy and the family went on an unusual ride to see the elephant get taken back to the circus.

Rediscovering this “book” of memories is quite a treasure. I’m thankful that Mom and her siblings wrote them down. Someday my children and eventually grandchildren will find them. I hope they will recognize the “link.”

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2 thoughts on “Intergenerational Memories”

  1. Hello Susan,

    All Amish are writers… at least as an avocation. They write letters and diaries fairly regularly. It is rather unusual for them to put together this kind of an account of their memories… I think they thought that their audience would be one another and some of their children — in other words it wasn’t for “publication.”

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