You guys ever watch those, “Who do you think you are?” shows where celebrities go on a quest to find out what their ancestors were up to? I’ve always secretly geeked out on those, not because it’s celebrities but because I’ve always had this really weird fascination with the past.
In my case, I’m pretty lucky to have grandparents on my mom’s side still alive and still willing and able to tell me stories about growing up. Though I could honestly say I would sit and listen to them all day, their generation is often more keen on letting the past go and sitting in silence while watching their ever-expanding family play.
A few weeks ago most of my maternal family got together to celebrate my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary, my grandma’s 83rd birthday and my grandpa’s 90th birthday. This is them. They are the freakin’ cutest.
Elmer and Delores successfully raised 5 kids (I say “successfully” because all children made it out still talking to each other and to their parents…this is what my dreams for mine have amounted to. 😉 ) That’s my ma there in the red, my auntie Glenda in navy and my uncles Neil (gray), Dale (maroon) and Vic (green).
Those 5 went on to marry (and have stayed married for a looooong time each one of them) (missing Uncle Gary in navy)
and procreate at ever-increasing speeds. 😉 So I have a lot of cousins, and I happen to love and appreciate each and every one (I’m missing a few cousins in navy, one residing in Kentucky and the other in Chile).
Then we went on to marry and
fornicate procreate/adopt at even more increasing speeds, creating roughly 16 great-grandchildren for Elmer and Delores. (3 not pictured, they live in Australia, we will forgive them for not showing up)
That Saturday I kept looking at us all wondering if my grandparents were looking at all of us thinking, “We did all of this.”
Elmer and Delores live in a tiny town in Iowa called Frederika. I love “Fred”, as we call it, because it’s one of those towns I could let my kids walk around all day and not worry about a thing. I also love it because we had an open house for the anniversary and the entire town showed up. Not just that town, but seemingly every town within a 15 mile radius. From 3-7pm people were coming in, talking about how much it meant to them that Delores showed up to sit with them while they lost their mom to cancer or Elmer helped them build their barn.
I must admit here that having three black sons in a town like Fred can make me a little nervous. The only ones with a hint of color for miles, they certainly stood out. But I also can’t tell you how thankful I was to watch my grandma throw her arm around Tomas and proudly introduce him as her great-grandson to her friends. I also can’t tell you how proud I was to watch my sons ask to throw away plates and cups for some of the older patrons and beam when the patrons would touch their arm and say sweetly, “Thank you sweet boy!”
Of course I write all of this knowing I’m in a unique position of having biological children who will grow up knowing their biological great grandparents and also having children who will grow up not knowing their biological great grandparents. When I look at Elmer and Delores or my mom and dad, sometimes a bit of sadness creeps in that my boys don’t get to hang with people who share their eyes or facial expressions. When my grandma starts to laugh she looks just like my mom and I look just like the both of them. It’s remarkable to watch bits of myself play out in my grandmother. I can’t really imagine what it would be like to wonder about it all, like my boys have to do.
I suppose that’s why I’ve made a committment to do the digging myself on their families. Why I keep in touch with their families. I see their faces when they’ve received a letter from their loved one and I get it.
I can’t imagine shaping a future when the past is marked with holes. I know I so often look back at old pictures of my family and gain a new understanding of why I am who I am. I’ll do the best I can with my boys but as for me, I’m so very thankful for my family.
So very thankful for the uncles who gave me weird nicknames and “boop” my bun, for the auntie who prays for me and donates to all of my passion projects. For my cousins who took my fish off my line for me, played tea with me and even told me grandpa’s finger was stuffed in a jar in a closet (Dani!).
And for Elmer and Delores who started it all. Happy anniversary grandma and grandpa, love you!