And, in the thinking, I remembered something my Aunt Ruby once said that now makes sense.
What do I mean by "shared history?" Shared history is composed of those markers you share with a particular group of people who have known and experienced the same family life or generational life or schooling life as you. Examples?
Two years ago The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks) launched, and I heard from a great many former students and colleagues who had lived through and shared a building known then as Monmouth High School. Many of their comments touched on their pleasure in reading the book because it brought back so many memories of events they had shared with those who walked beside them down those halls.
This week I had lunch with a group of ladies who graduated with me from high school back in...well, somewhere in the last century. While most of them either live in Galesburg, Illinois, or were visiting from other places, I drove only about twelve miles to join them. Evidently these monthly forays to various wine places and restaurants have been going on for some time, but I either missed the fact or was simply ignorant. We had a great time catching up and finding out about each other's lives and asking about those who were absent.
I thought of it as an example of those circles in which we live and breathe and have our being. When my mother died it was one link taken away from the circle of our family rituals, traditions, and history. Other deaths followed so that now my older brother and I are left to share the memories that no one else owns. Only us. (And I'm sure that--unlike his memory--mine is correct when I say that the argument resulting in the two-story fall of my teddy bear was his fault.)
It reminds me of my mother's sister, my Aunt Ruby, who passed away well into her nineties, the last person from a family of nine who had experienced the Depression, World War II, and the aftermath leading to the birth of my generation. When her eighth sibling died a few years earlier, she told me that her true sadness was that she had no one with whom to speak that shared their family history. Now I understand what she meant.
I believe that teaching college students well into my sixties has kept my brain active and my thoughts young, and I definitely recommend bonding with those generations younger and older than you. But there is something about being with those people who share your history that is familiar, easy, and reassuring.