Bringing Love to Family History – Step 1 of a Journey

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I was reaching for hand lotion that I keep by the kitchen sink, and I almost missed the little miracle. Do you see it?

It’s a moth. Camouflaged on the granite countertop.

Perfectly still.

But very much alive.

Moth on the counter.

I’m embarking on a journey of writing a book about my family history, and considering it is a lot like contemplating this moth.

In the frozen life of family snapshots, there is a movement of people with vibrant personalities and stories to tell.

Yet many of them – the real people and their stories – are hidden.

And just like the ornate moth, each one deserves more than a glance.

Look closely at one thing for awhile and you’ll eventually see the myriad shades of gray and brown which cover it. The explosion of subtle colors are its essence and truth.

So it is with us and our lives. Nothing is straightforward. Nothing is one-sided.

Our perceptions and memories of events, people, and places are incomplete, mere shadows of the full picture.

This book – however hard I try to be accurate – will be nothing more than impressions of the people I write about.

But should I despair?

No.

I talked to my grandma just 4 days before she passed; 48 hours before she couldn’t speak any more. And after she thanked me for speaking at my grandfather’s memorial service the previous week, I told her I’d thought of things I could have said and didn’t. She replied (and I wrote it down verbatim),

“We do that…When we think back, we think, ‘Why didn’t I say that or do that?’ It’s not productive.”

She was right, of course.

It’s not productive.

Wishing things were somehow different is not helpful.

It’s not productive to belittle ourselves in the now for what we couldn’t or didn’t do then. We can only work with what we have, and when we sit and reflect in gratitude, we always find we have enough.

Because what we have, what I have to give in this endeavor, is love in the telling.

I will lay out my plan for this book in posts to come, but for now I’m ruminating on the need for family history to be – first and foremost – an excavation of the sentiments and values that bind us together, no matter the personalities or circumstances involved. Any details which might devalue a person in a reader’s eyes must be sifted and viewed in the way the One greater than ourselves views us. That is, with love and tenderness. A person’s mistakes and trials should never become fodder for our gossiping minds, but instead be seen for what they were or are: the struggles which lead to the development of character.

I am excited about this journey into my family history. I am eager to see what’s hiding in plain sight.

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