My final interview was with my grandmother (or as we refer to her my “Nanny”). It was beautiful. She knows so much about our family history. The interview truly reminded me of the book The Presence of the Past. For one, in that book woman are identified as keepers of family history and also just because she loved reflecting on family history so much. So many of the themes of the class popped up throughout the interview.
Nanny was the first woman that I interviewed and the feminist oral history projects we have looked at caused me to notice many of the themes that were mentioned in class. Nanny talks down her role and life a lot. She insists that her life was very ordinary and nothing special. This is in line with what we have learned from our studies about women’s ideas about their roles in society. But oh my gosh, was she wrong.
Her life was incredible, I never knew that my Nanny had experienced so much hardship and adventure. Her grandmother used to buy houses, live in them, renovate them, then sell them for profit. My Nanny and great grandmother lived with her and this caused them to move all around Owensboro. It also resulted in them having a good deal of money during the Depression. Her mother and grandmother were also business woman and owned their own salon. They were very good at it too. The only thing that got my great-grandmother to stop was the fact that she had a stroke and broke her leg at 80, causing her to retire. These were exceptional women. They were straight up like romanticized strong women for the era. They knew how to survive and thrived.
My Nanny also had an emotional moment and presented me with my first serious emotional moment during an interview. Until now, I had not had to deal with an emotional reaction to the past in an interview. This changed with this interview, however. I will not get into what my Nanny talked about on my blog, it is in the interview and index, but it was intense. It was a reflection of years of internally struggling with emotional hardship and self-doubt. She got choked up. But being stronger than the sadness, fought the tears. She told me she had never really talked about it before. I felt so bless that she discussed it with me. I believed that she never talked about it because she didn’t want to burden those around her. She just dealt with it for over 30 years before she came to terms with it. It was a beautiful moment. She is a beautiful woman.
It was not all emotional though. We talked about playin’ cards and drinking and gambling. We talked about the good times! And boy, she had some good times! She discussed everything that I wanted to know. One thing that I really came away with from this interview is that as the interviewer you should feel free to ask any reasonable question. If the interviewee does not want to answer it, they can simply let you know. That was not the case here though. Anything I wanted to know, she was more than happy to talk about. It was a wonderful experience.
In conclusion, after the three interviews, I feel that I have grown a great deal as an interviewer. I think it has helped a lot that my interviewees have varied so much in make-up and background. The differing views and life experiences got me exposed to dealing with different perspectives. The readings did a lot to help with that, as well. They also helped me notice when some potential avenues for more information arose in the conversation, how identify them and how to follow them up. Nothing helps you learn like experience, however, and learn I have. After all the reading, discussion, transcription, calling, interviews, and indexing, I truly feel as though I have been submerged into the world of oral history. I now see that the field holds a lot of fun, exciting and useful potential. (Stop tape)