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The Origins of…Me

2012/02/12

I’ve been at this family history thing for a long time. You could say that it all started with an assignment in my 8th grade Spanish Class. Señor Mason had the class make family trees in order to help us learn all the Spanish words for familial relationships. I don’t think he realized what he was unleashing nearly thirty years ago.

My first “OMG” discovery while researching my family history came from that first assignment. That was when I learned my Aunt Lu and Uncle Tommy were not, in fact, my aunt and uncle. Now, in my defense, my mother’s family was a little different from the norm of my time. My grandmother had been divorced and remarried, as had my grandfather (whom I only ever met one time when I was four), and I already knew my one uncle’s father was different from my mother’s (we still called him Granddaddy George, because he was our grandfather in every other sense of the word). So, I just assumed that my Aunt Lu must have been Mom’s sister, the same way my uncle was her brother. I mean, they acted like sisters, and they called Grandma, Grandma, and Aunt Edith was everyone’s Aunt Edith, so it just seemed to make sense. But that was not the case, and when I asked Mom where I should put them on the “Mi Familia” chart, she just stared at me with one of those “what the hell are you talking about” looks and told me that I shouldn’t put them anywhere on the chart. From that point on, there were no more assumptions, and while I didn’t know it at the time, it would start an incredible journey through time and history.

Now, this was not a new phenomenon for me. I have always been fascinated with knowing about my family, and there is nothing better than hearing a family story for me. Well, except maybe digging through old photographs and hearing family stories. I spent a lot of weekends doing that with my Grandma Lee, and I’m pretty sure I was the reason she had to replace the albums she kept all those old photos in, because I never wanted to stop looking at them. But it wasn’t just the photos, it was listening to my grandmother tell me about her grandfather’s farm in New Jersey, or how she took care of her brothers (even though one was older than her), or about riding on Grandpa’s “motorbike” back in the day, and even the few stories she would tell me about her father and his family. Five years old, sitting on the edge of the bed with my feet dangling, flipping through albums next to Grandma Lee, hearing her laugh as she told me about the day Mom helped set her hair when I asked about the picture for the umpteenth time… That’s what it’s all about for me.

There have been a lot of “OMG” discoveries since the night I started putting together “Mi Familia,” and there have been photographs, and more stories, and I’m collecting them all so they will never be forgotten. It’s important to know where you come from, and it’s the one thing I know I can give to my nieces and nephews to carry through their lives.

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