She’s the mother of my sister-in-law. I guess that means that she is almost a stranger. I saw her last Saturday at a familial gathering. We see her every once and a while. I would be able to recognize her and remember her name if I saw her in an unfamiliar place.
We know that she is obsessed with family histories and genealogy. That line of study has a religious context here in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is almost a duty of the family to keep a record of the lineage. The church helps out and they have an amazing genealogy library both in the city and online. When she lived in Boston, she would frequently travel back home to visit the library.
She asked about my family. I grew up in the same neighborhood as she raised her children and she was trying to find a connection. She was trying to hear a familiar name. After exhausting my parents’ names, she moved on to my grandparents. For some reason, I was trying to shock her, so I told the risque stories that fill my family’s past. She wanted to hear them all. She was unshockable.
“You should write down your family stories,” she told me. She doesn’t know that I am a writer. She doesn’t know how I’ve shied away from writing any of my family stories. “I would, but I don’t know which ones are true.” She smiled serenely at me and said, “It doesn’t matter what’s true. You write the legend anyway.” I blinked at her a few times and then reached across the couch to hug her. “You are my new favorite person.”
I haven’t put my fingers to the keyboard about very many details about my family’s past because I didn’t ever know if what my grandma or father told me was true. It doesn’t matter. What I write down today will be a hell of a lot truer than what I could write in ten years or what my progeny would try to write when I’m gone. Additionally, it doesn’t matter what the real truth is. There is no real truth anymore. All there is are the memories of what my grandma told me. There are others on the planet who may argue, but to me, those stories are the only truth that exists.
So that’s what I have to do: write the legend anyway.