In the introduction, Trigiani writes:
My grandmothers bestowed on me, through their example, the importance of developing character, rooted in kindness; and a spirit that might negotiate loss and rebound from grief to love more deeply. . .In dark moments when despair kicks joy to the curb, and I feel I don’t have it in me to go one more step, I turn to my grandmothers for strength. . . The life lessons my grandmothers taught me help me stay the course, and here on these pages, I hope their wisdom might inspire you too.
The book bounces back and forth between Trigiani’s grandmothers, Viola and Lucy. In turns we learn about each woman’s marriage, children, cooking, occupations, origins, and more. Interspersed throughout the stories in the book are the life lessons. A sampling:
Wear what you like, not what looks good on someone else. (p. 78)
Start working early and never, ever retire. (p. 95)
Support your child’s interests and talents. (p. 167)
Both Viola and Lucy had their share of sorrow and the author doesn’t shy away from discussing the difficult times that tested each woman’s character. The prose engages you from the very beginning and carries you through to the end.
What can we learn from Don’t Sing at the Table? We may have more to write about our ancestors than we thought. What lessons can we pull from our memories or impressions of our loved ones? As we write stories and descriptions of the people who went before us, the lessons will emerge.
I grew up 8 miles away from Grandma Kelsey. Our family spent every Sunday afternoon and evening at her home. In her later years I helped clean her home. I played the piano for her. She sewed a new flannel nightgown every Christmas for me. Grandma Kelsey started my collection of classics giving me Jane Eyre and Gone With the Wind. We shared a love of reading, travel, music, flowers.
My Grandma Ettie died before my birth. I never shared a hug with her. I never tasted her delicious baking. I never heard her voice. Thanks to Nicole, I do have several letters from those who did know her. Lessons from her life come from those memories and what I’ve discovered from the stories of her life.
I wrote “Lessons from my Grandmother’s Sampler” two years ago; a short piece about my mother and grandmothers honoring them on Mother’s Day. Reading Don’t sing at the Table: Life Lessons From My Grandmothers has inspired me to contemplate the lessons I have learned from my grandmothers and expand my thinking. Each woman persevered through severe life challenges. Each loved her family. Each looked for the best in life. I think I have more stories of my own to write.
What life lessons have you learned from your grandmothers, or grandfathers, or another ancestor? Looking at their lives through this lens can help us to take stock of our own lives and perhaps discover a strength we didn’t know we had.
Happy reading and best of luck in trying your hand at writing some life lessons of your own!
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