Given the teen preference for texting, an email this summer from a granddaughter in Massachusetts to me in Maryland was a surprise. The subject line even more intriguing: Is this You? it read. The body of the email held links to articles I'd written. A click and I was reading stories I'd penned for various newspapers and magazines--one from 1978; another, 1983.
Why was my 15-year-old granddaughter sending me links to long-ago and far-away articles? Why, in short, had she Googled me?
The prosaic answer was this: She was applying to a summer program in journalism and had to write an essay about her interest in communications and the media. One paragraph was about her grandmother (that's me) being a journalist, and she evidently checked that out--looked for proof--by calling up some of my stories.
I am still a journalist--part-time now. But when my granddaughter was born and until she turned 11 I was a full time editor at a national magazine, having worked my way up from staff writer.
That being so, the question nags at me: Why did she have to Google me to find out about my standing as a journalist? When I asked the grandfather (aka my husband and a lawyer who once worked for the U.S. Congress) what he thought, he reminisced about all the legal and political issues he had shared with this granddaughter once she was old- or interested-enough to understand.
I had not. My granddaughter knew I worked but I never talked to her about my career. When I went to visit her or she came here, I kept my grandparenting focused on the quotidian. I was observing, getting a feel for what she cared about, thought about, was interested in and how I could add background, anecdotes or information to her concerns. I didn't bring my world to her.
I must have shared a funny story or two--in search of a story we journalists are a riot. Sometimes. But I hadn't discussed what I wrote about or the many climbs and plateaus, hurdles and high points I faced--from my first job answering letters to the editor at Time Inc to ending up as an editor and columnist on municipal finance at Governing Magazine.
"She absorbed some of it by looking around," my daughter said when I brought up the missed opportunities. My home-office, which doubled as my granddaughter's bedroom when she came to visit, had various memorabilia hung on the wall for my own viewing pleasure--a plaque for a journalism award, a "joke" Washingtonian cover with my face on it.
If I ever finish the memoir I'm writing about my years at Time Inc (an aggressively sexist time in the work place in general, in journalism in particular and at Time especially), my children and grandchildren will know more about what this grannie did with her life. It's an important part of the legacy we leave. The life choices we made reflect our values and give our children and grandchildren at least one road map--hopefully among many others--about what paths there are in life and ways to deal with some of the stickier issues those paths can throw at you.
The written version is where I'm heading in terms of explaining myself and my world to my grown children (it's astonishing what they don't know) and grandchildren. In the meantime, the idea that my granddaughter had to Google me to learn about my career is a reminder (note to self) to share the past--the good stories, fun anecdotes, and rich experiences--with our family in the here and now. It's an on-going story, even if we capture it in a final written or video'd form some time down the road.