I love family trees.. I love to try to trace my ancestors back to their origins.. The countries they were born in.. Oh the stories these trees would have to tell. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to listen to these ancestors tell their stories..?? And to be able to ask them questions.. like why did you leave your countries? Would it have been for adventure? Greater freedoms? Escaping bad memories?
Oh the possibilities…
I mean .. really? I have a great great grandfather named Dougal McDougall. An afternoon with him?
But there is more… Great people like Fredrick Law Olmsted.. or the original Olmsteds who came over when America was young. Sarah Fitzgerald (what a fun name).. the Von Kuhlmans from Germany..
All of it has me so curious and writer side of me ITCHES to record it all…
But then there is the Start side of my family. My Grandma Betty.. and her parents. They are Dutch.. all from the Netherlands. This side of the family never seemed as interesting to me.
Well… because they were so familiar to me. Familiar and safe. My grandma’s dad had a soft laugh when he was amused. My grandma’s mom was always smiling. They would offer you little candies from little dishes. Their backyard was like a little park. And even when they were upset with you (hey.. we were kids).. you just felt disappointed in yourself.. not scared.
My Gram Betty is in so many of my memories.. I remember her singing Brenda Lee songs with me.. and Johnny Cash’s “Everybody loves a nut.” I remember her always giving us fruit to snack on.. teaching me to eat rhubarb with sugar…. telling me that her “mom always said there would be days like this,”… sometimes adding with a wink, “she never mentioned there would be so many”… I remember her wearing hats… I remember laughing with her when she recalled being relieved to turn gray so “early”.. instead of “that awful red”… (Which we all know her red hair was actually quite pretty.. because grandpa always told us).. and I remember her being called Miss Blue. Because she loved the color blue.
After my grandparents moved to Florida, my memories of them were more sparse.. but just as loved. I loved hearing about their travel adventures.. their little arguments… and hearing my grandma use her age as an excuse for not having to do things she didn’t want to..
My grandpa died young.. only in his 60’s.. but I have so many teenage memories of him teasing my grandma, winking at me.. his laugh that echoed joyfully where ever he was.. his bear hugs.. and his more serious moments when he encouraged me to reach for the stars. (Not his exact words.. but that’s how I always felt. He had so much faith in my future being great.)
This side of my own family tree is the strongest side.. The Start/Kuhlman Roots of my tree go down deep… Deeper than any roots on paper. The love.. the stability.. the generations of support.. those roots go deeper than any other branch of my family tree.
But as a teenager?
These roots felt like home.. and I wanted adventure.. I wanted to be like Dougal McDougall and set forth from my homeland for adventures and tales across the sea…
As an adult? I realize that I missed an opportunity to explore those roots. I was always exploring the branches.. looking out over the horizons.. looking to the future.
Today instead of looking for adventures… instead of feeling curious about the great people of the past.. or wondering what tales my exciting ancestors might have to tell?
Today I am wishing for a conversation with my quiet, safe Grandma in Florida… To hear her soft laugh.. or hear her tell me that her “mom always told me there would be days like this”, and that “this too shall pass”. To hear her tell of her sassy days of dating my grandpa.
And I’d love to tell her how much I love her .. and how she shaped my life and gave me such strong roots.