I love to grill in the Summer. I know that is traditionally a “guy thing”, but my husband and I don’t necessary follow traditional rules when it comes to a lot of things in our marriage. I made the mistake of getting a charcoal grill at the beginning of the season, and soon found out that, not only does my family hate the taste of charcoal-grilled food, but that getting regular charcoal to light without an absurd amount of lighter fluid is not an easy task. The pre-treated briquettes help, but still, it is real work getting that fire going. Finally, I just gave up and bought a gas grill. Problem solved!
Getting other people excited about their family history sometimes feels a bit like getting a stubborn fire to start. I can sometimes try a variety of different methods to get that flame to burn, but not without many attempts. I have to first experience the rejection of the dull and uninterested look in their eyes as they tune me out when I gush about learning something they might like to know. I can see their thoughts wander. It hasn’t caught them yet. Hmmm, Time for a new approach.
I am sympathetic. There was a time when I was not as interested in family history, too. Maybe it was because I had a lot going on, or my attention was elsewhere. I was more focused on the current. That is OK. There will come a time when one’s history will become relevant.
Moving across the country to Pennsylvania as a lonely stay-at-home mom while my husband hit the ground running in an industry that does business primarily in the Summer has left me lonely in the dog days of July, when it is too hot and humid to take the kids anywhere outdoors for any length of time. After years of moving around and finishing college in between birthing and nursing children, I have found that family history holds my interest, since working is not an efficient use of my time, due to the costs of childcare. Some mothers take up CrossFit or selling essential oils. I have taken up learning about the dead.
It is hard to explain, but when I learn about my ancestors, I feel less alone. Having come from a small and broken family, I don’t have much support around me. I don’t have big family reunions or vacations that I look forward to every year. I don’t have a tribe. Even getting someone to babysit my children is like pulling teeth. Many days, I feel left out to dry.
But when I immerse myself in the stories of my ancestors, it is like I can picture myself right there with them. The Summers they spent picking fruit or swimming in creeks, or the traditions they had during holidays… I would like to think they wouldn’t mind having me around with them.
Once, I had a dream that I was taking a group picture with all of my family- including ancestors I have never met who have passed on. I was so happy to be posing and smiling with them. And a petite, dark-haired woman in a 1930s-style green floral dress was lovingly doting on me, putting her arm around me as if she was proud of me. She seemed familiar but was still unknown to me. I now realize it was my great-grandmother, Ruth.
Family history is a cure for loneliness. At least for me. Whenever I feel a lack of support, or I feel as though I have no tribe, all I need to do is look at my family tree and see the generations that have loved me into existence. That is when I know that I am never alone.
Learning about your ancestors does something for your soul. Once you understand who you are and where you belong in a long line of people, you can never feel insignificant again. I think this is really at the heart of why we seek out our ancestors.