I discovered my life’s passion in a swimming pool while my Grandma Kimball and great-aunts were doing water aerobics. I didn’t know it yet, but gliding in and out of their conversations, hearing bits and pieces as I splashed with my siblings – started me on a life-long path of searching out and sharing family stories.
Why did their stories intrigue me? Because these were my people! I loved my Grandma Kimball and her sisters. They always seemed so wonderful to me (then and now!) I figured if they were sharing stories about these “ancestors” they must be wonderful, too!
Family stories helped me discover more about myself. I vividly remember one of my mom’s cousins talking about how my Great Grandmother Ada had a familiar face. Wherever she went people seemed to know her and feel comfortable talking to her. Sometimes when I was a teenager, children who needed help seemed to find their way to me, too. I remember thinking that maybe I could try to be like Ada and do my best to help people as she did.
As I grew older, sometimes the stories I discovered or were told became more serious. My ancestors faced hard things – devastating things. Death of a spouse or a child, miscarriages, divorce, annulments, job losses, the Great Depression, war, abuse. These stories were heavier and yet there were silver linings woven through. Knowing what helped them through hard times, helped me, too. Whether it was faith or music or family connections, I found learning about how they made it through their struggles helped me as I went through my own.
During this past year, family connections have carried me through the pandemic. Working on Strong Moms with Monta (my first cousin once removed!), long Marco Polo video chat threads with family and friends, discovering new relatives through family history research, sharing stories with my children – these have all woven silver threads through a difficult two years. Family history has the power to draw us closer together because these are our stories, these are our people! The more family history I do, the more connections I make. But maybe that is just a little bit of my Great-Grandma Ada shining through. The more I look for connection, the more it finds me.
October is Family History Month. Will you join me? I invite you to explore some of the silver linings in your own story or in your family’s history. What has made your family stronger? What will get you through these hard times? Write them down, share them! You never know what piece of your history will help the next generation.