Friday, March 26, 2010

Proof I'm Not An Figment of my Imagination

I feel good, as in gooooooooooooooooood ! 

This is a nice foil for the not-so-skippity-doo-dah I get when pondering the Over-Examined Life (read tallying up the goofs and glories of my past and finding the columns aren't stacked the way I'd prefer).

SO I won't over-examine this except to say a single recent email changed my perspective and helped me better define something I've found hard to conceptualize...Myself.  We've all heard the old question "what use is history?" least I heard it a lot in school asked by those who thought there was no practical use in knowing history.   But who are we apart from our histories?  For some of us farther removed from our own histories, the blanks are hard to fill in and leave me, at least, feeling as if a really important part of me lacks definition.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...back to the email.

It went something like this...

Sent my sis an email asking if she knew which of our great grandmothers was said to be Cherokee.  It's a detail that came to me one day and I wanted to follow up on.  Sketchy oral historical highlights from conversations past, always overheard by us children who weren't paying attention as much then as we would now, are elusive to my memory now.  Ah, if we kids only knew to ask our oldtimers those questions back then  (Smack to the head, arggh!)

Back to the email...

So ten minutes before I'm about to leave for that evening shift, I go to clear my email box and there's a reply from my sister.  But it reads along the lines of "Grandpa and Family Documentary."  Grandpa in our vernacular means my maternal granddad, since my paternal one was always referred to as Granddaddy.

What's so important about this, and remarkable (!!!), is that neither my sister or me are genealogically-savvy progeny though we came from a really amazing lineage of forbears...I know so because all the older family members I can remember were rugged individualists as well as loyal family people who, (but for a few exceptions thrown in for spice and spit), lived lives of hard work, integrity, and simplicity.  They came from big families familiar both with country and city lives and stayed in touch and very connected through all of the major life ups and downs.  Until the modern Disconnect...somewhere along the line the most recent generations, mine and my parents'...did ...what??  Got busy??  I have no idea what happened, but there's no venerable elder to access now to sit at the feet of (dangling partciple be darned) and glean the wisdom of the years and the tales of family.  All I have are my own memories of my grandparents, which are a treasure.

My Grandma and Grandpa had a profound effect on my life and there are  no two people I miss more.  Since an estrangement from our own parents, my sister and I both have often felt the sensation of being shadowed by a great oak of past family, but not being able to firmly grasp any part of it...our own family past a history lost to us. 

That may be a very American identity problem for some folks like me whose parents moved far from generational homeplaces in this faster and supposedly more globally accessible world.  I'm a product of the busy-lifestyle melting pot, one of so many suburban gypsies orbiting independent of a lot of ties.  No wonder I'm happier the more we simplify and attempt to put down roots, slow down, and invest in something with meaning.  I've met some others so shed of their pasts that those pasts are unrecoverable.  I've led a transitory life and have relocated over 22 times in my 43 years.  I've needed something to anchor me to some part of my past, or at least I've wished for it, to carry it into the present.
Grandpa and Family Documentary proved to be a document compiled by my Grandpa's niece (still living) who somehow had (for how many years??) had in her possession two notebooks penned by my Grandpa's father.  In his notebooks, he told his own story beginning with his earliest memories of his parents,  from about the year1880.  From when they "went West."

This niece transcribed the entire two notebooks into type with the only additions being the correction of some spelling errors and doublechecking names mentioned therein with a family tree book she had from her parents' side of the family.

So THERE, in pages and pages and pages in a computer file, was attached this HISTORY of MY OWN FAVORITE Grandpa...and I haven't even read it yet!  Guess what I'll be doing the whole weekend besides resting for Shabbat??

This is something I give so much thanks for, and I'm totally thanking God not only that my relative went to the trouble to do this AND share it, but for the timing of it all.  This is a time I can truly appreciate every detail and have something to pass down to my own daughter.  Strangely, it helps me feel like I belong, though all the people mentioned in the journal are likely no longer alive.  I can't adequately express how defining this is for me, but I'm SO VERY HAPPY! 

And I had to share...I'm grateful for so many things.  As always, God, my husband, my daughter, my friends (includes you guys!), my pup, my job and so much more.  Friday night we'll shut things down for the weekly rest (yay!) and spend a lot of time in particular rereading the Exodus account since it's just about Passover. 

To others, my great-Grandpa's journal might read about as interestingly as all the biblical "begats" lists, but even those anchor individuals in their times and their families and their heritages.  Were our "begats" to be forgotten, we lose so much. 

I can't wait to read it and to meet my lost family.  For the first time.

Shabbat shalom! :)


Michelle said...

What a wonderful, special gift! My family history is intact, even though its members are very much cast to the wind, because my parents are first and second generation Americans and the stories behind them are treasured and oft-told. But I must get it written down, or it, too, could be lost!

Michelle said...

P.S. Shabbat shalom to you, too!