That's me, newborn, in my mother's arms. Four generations, starting with my great-grandmother, Cora, known to all as "Bam"; my grandmother, Clarice, who would rather be called "Teresa", and my mother Betty.
I've never been much interested in the study of geneology, but I have been thinking a lot lately about my family and where I came from and what they all mean to who I am. I remember Bam and Grandma. Bam lived into her '90s and we visited her many times when I was a child. We visited Grandma. She visited us. She taught me to sew doll clothes and passed on her love of color and fabric. Bam quilted weekly with the Methodist ladies. Mom was an artist. And here I am with bits from all of them—not to mention my other Grandma Hazle, my Dad's mother. They all walk around with me in some little way and I know them as my family and my blood. It occurs to me that my granddaughter will never know any of these women, except for me, but, in a more elusive way, they are walking with her as well. And, of course, my son and daughter too. And the family that came before. Bam's mother and grandmothers and great grandmothers—aren't they part of this too?
I have been watching the PBS series called Faces of America and it has been surprisingly moving, as the host, Henry Louis Gates, reveals to his guests information about their ancestors and finally the previously unknown connections even among those guests. Revelations about race and ethnicity discovered through DNA testing, told some of them they were not exactly "what" they thought they were. Each bit of information was met with such a sense of joy and delight—never dismay or disappointment. Knowing more about oneself, whatever is revealed, it seems, is something so satisfying.
Looking at my grandchild, I realize how many people contribute to one person's makeup in only a few generations time. She has her American ancestors, both mine and Ray's as well her South American ancestors which include indigenous (Inca? Maybe.) blood and Spanish. A vast network when you think of it. A network that overlaps and intersects thousands of other networks.And each of these networks is a network of stories. Faces of America was all about family stories and it was the stories that the guests responded to with such emotion.
And so I think we are obligated to tell our stories, as well as the stories that were told to us. See those three women in that picture up there? I could tell you a lot of stories about them, but you have your own stories. My grandchildren will hear my stories.