What Do You Get When You Interview Four Siblings…in Rural Mississippi?
Allow me to set the scene. The only male of the bunch is the oldest. He served in Vietnam, stayed in the Army for many years, and constantly stayed in touch and took care of his sisters (and a younger brother who couldn’t make it to the interview) for many years. I knew it was going to be a memorable event when the interview began by asking him if he had any nicknames. Before he could say anything, the sisters said, “Golden Boy.” He said, “I don’t know anything about all that.” Laughter ensued, and the fun began.
There are times when you just have to sit back, smile and feel good about your work. That happened to me not too long ago when I delivered a LifeStory interview that included these four siblings (one brother and his three sisters, ages 67 to 75, each with a very unique personality) from rural Mississippi. The only male in the bunch’s son and daughter hired me to record her parents’ living stories for a full day. The following day, we put her Dad and her three aunts on the couch together to share stories about their lives as siblings: past, present and future.
Oh, sure, there were times when the mood got serious, but most of their time together that day was spent laughing and sharing stories about being raised (mostly) by the Grandmother they lovingly called “Gran”. As little kids, when one of them would do something bad and the others wouldn’t “rat” on the guilty one, Gran would line them all up, bent over side by side, for the whoopin’. “By whoopin’ us all, she made sure she got the one who did it!”
I only wish I could have met Gran and interviewed her. Their description of her prowess with a rifle rivaled the stories I’ve read about Annie Oakley and Davy Crockett. When the oldest was a little boy and a hawk was terrorizing the chickens, she would whisper, “Boy, go get me my gun.” He would stand by her as she whispered while looking up the barrel with one eye, “Let’s see…the wind is blowing a bit from the left…” When the trigger was pulled the hawk was a goner…even if it was a hundred yards away!
The four shared stories of how they supported (and still support) one another in times of struggle…”no questions asked.” The sound of their laughter and the look on their faces as they shared the typical sibling rivalry stories will always be etched in my mind and my heart.
What do you get when you interview four siblings in rural Mississippi? In a word, love. Unshakable, everlasting love. Driving back to Austin, Texas from Mississippi, I couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off my face as I remembered the stories I heard the day before. And to this day, my heart is filled with joy knowing their great-grandkids will one day be able to feel the love they had for one another, too.
To quote the final line from the 2011 movie Sarah’s Key, “When a story is told, it’s not forgotten. It becomes something else…the memory of who we were…and the hope of what we can become.” The hope of who those great-grandkids can become just got brighter.
P.S. As I write this on March 8, 2019, I have mixed emotions. I returned from the funeral in Mississippi last Tuesday of the oldest brother. Because you told your story, Chuck, you will not be forgotten. May your memory be a blessing for all who were fortunate enough to have known you.