Earlier this month I did something I have thought about doing for a long time. I sat down with my grandma and interviewed her. When I was in high school, I added this item to my bucket list: “Learn more about my grandmother while I can”. I knew back then I wanted to cherish the time I had with my only living grandparent. Years passed and the opportunity never presented itself (or I was never proactive about it), until earlier this month when my grandma visited the Philippines with my aunt and cousin.
I had heard about this interesting project called StoryCorps a while back. It’s an initiative aimed at chronicling stories of people from all walks of life. They hold events throughout the U.S. where they invite you to bring someone you’d like to interview and record an interview with them, asking questions that you may not otherwise ask in your normal everyday life. I discovered they had a phone app that anyone can use to interview their subject of choice on-the-go. I downloaded it and forgot about it until recently, when I opened it up and checked it out. When my grandma visited there was a chunk of time where I just happened to be sitting in the living room alone with her, so I figured – here I go, if not now who knows how many other chances I will get.
Grandma and me, then and now
I asked her about her childhood, her family, how she met my grandpa, any memories she wanted to share. It was wonderful to see her face light up and to see her talk in a lively way about these things. Normally whenever I see her we spend time in a comfortable, mundane way – watching TV together, eating together, maybe taking a walk outside together. But never really conversing about deeper issues, about her thoughts and feelings. I suppose we come from very different worlds – she grew up in a family of farmers, and even until today has a chicken farm near where she grew up in Taiwan. At the age of 80 she goes to the farm almost everyday to feed her chickens. She never went to school as she had to work for her parents growing up. A far cry from how I was raised, so it’s understandable she probably isn’t used to discussing feelings in her free time. Especially with her grandchildren!
Anyway, I’m glad I got to interview her, and hope to spend more moments with her as a caring companion and not just as a grandchild. Here is our interview (in Mandarin, but I included a translated transcript in English at the link) if you care to take a listen: