You know when you go to hear a band play and the music is fast and upbeat and everyone is dancing. Then the lead singer walks up to the microphone and says “Ok folks, we are going to slow it down for you now….” And they play this slow song that brings everything into a tender, softer mood. Well consider this entry my slow song. Not romantic, just more calm and hopefully touching. (I waxed sentimental after being snowed in for two days.)
I want to write about my family (parents) today. My family name is a source of great pride to me. I’m quite sure it is the same for most people. We place value on our heritage. I actually looked up the definitions to both legacy and heritage to see what the distinct differences were. Legacy being something handed down through the generations. A trait. Maybe in our family that trait would be stubbornness. Or I could be kind and say tenacious. I love the definition I found for heritage; “events or processes that have a special meaning in group memory”. That term ‘group memory’ is so moving to me; like the very interpretation of FAMILY itself is an ensemble of group memories. We had a family reunion a few years back. It was awesome. My parents are both deceased, but I have three siblings and all (or most) of their families came. We represented from all over the country. And altogether we embraced and celebrated the often quoted ‘rich heritage’ of our parents/grandparents. It was heartwarming. It saddens me when I hear about families that are fractured with jealousy or hatred or biases. Don’t get me wrong, we are not a perfect lot. But by and large we are a pretty tight crew.
My parents’ story is of more value and note than a brief blog entry. However I feel drawn today to record some of it here. My father was born in 1915; my mother in 1921. (Yes, they had me later in life, your math is correct.) Their respective families actually lived in very close proximity even though there was a time when they did not really have much to do with each other. As you can tell from the date, my parents were young children being raised in the Depression. They lived in a poor, rural corner of eastern North Carolina. Times there were very, very difficult. In a far reaching turn of events my mother’s mother died and my father’s father died. Out of financial necessity and practicality more than any actual romance, the two households joined up and my mother’s father married my father’s mother. (When I actually tell that story to people and say it quickly without giving them time to truly digest the information, they will invariably tilt their heads a little, squint their eyes and produce the most perfect perflexed expression.) My parents became step brother and sister. True, it has been the source of a cute joke or two. A raised eyebrow here and there. But in reality it was a grueling existence.
My father did not live at the ‘homestead’. He and his brothers had to quit school and go live on another’s farm to work to help support the family. He only saw my mother when he came home to visit his own mother. I believe with all my heart there was a protective, sheltering characteristic about my father who wanted to rescue this scared young girl thrust into a very unfamiliar and harsh living arrangement after losing her mother and her home. It didn’t happen immediately of course, because they were still growing up themselves. Their story is quite remarkable and I am unable to chronicle it all here. However the time did come when he would return to take her away. Carve a new road. Begin a new future. Start a new family. Our Family.
I wrote at the beginning that this was not going to be a romantic entry. But I think I was wrong. My thoughts, which then became words, took a different path as they tumbled out of the keyboard. What started as just a toss of gratitude at my family legacy turned into the telling of a love story. Not traditionally romantic. Not commercially romantic. But at the end of the day and at the core of every little girl’s dreams is the prince rushing in to save the day. I’m quite sure my mother had no time for fairy tales and would never consider herself a princess. My father probably didn’t quite fit the mold of a prince either. But for today, for this entry, that is exactly what they both are in my eyes. And their ‘fairy tale’, born out of grief, poverty and pain turned them into the ‘tenacious’ matriarch and patriarch of MY heritage. One that has taught me to stand strong, persevere, love unconditionally, value people more than things. It is a new light on an old story; even for me today. I feel very blessed to be the one sharing that story, their story, the beginning of MY story.