How did you get where you are today? No, I’m not looking for your “self-made man” stories here. I don’t want to hear about the day you were discovered at the corner drug-store and became a star. I’m thinking more about the myriad of stories in your family’s past that caused a change in location, bringing new opportunities, and how you’ve made the best of them.
This is one of my Mom’s favorite angles when she researches family history. Why did a family move from Kentucky to California? Just look at the future generations it affected. In our family’s case, if my great grandmother had not moved herself and two small children that incredible distance to live near a brother who had already settled there, my grandfather and grandmother would never have met. My grandmother was there because her parents, both of German descent, had retired from the military at the Presidio. So, how in the world did I end up in Arkansas? That takes several more stories.
Perhaps even more telling, though, is what happens next. How do the children adapt and adjust when they are uprooted and replanted?
It must have been a huge culture shock for my Mom when she moved from the San Francisco bay area as a teenager to a farm in South Central Kansas. But, she says she loved the sunshine, and working outdoors. At the small town school she attended, she flourished, and was elected President of the Student Body before she graduated. No small feat for a girl in post WWII America.
In my job with the State of Arkansas, I’ve been privileged to work with people from Asia, South Africa, Eastern Europe. How difficult it must be to adapt to a country with strange customs, and a language that makes very little sense. Remarkably, many of these people speak better English than I do, though you must listen carefully at times to communicate well.
Once, my friend Kristina had a new chair in her office with the tag still attached. As I helped her remove it, I introduced her to Minnie Pearl, a legendary American icon remembered for the price tags that dangled from her hats. Imagine how strange that story must be to someone who’s never seen the Grand Ole Opry. But, there’s another example of someone who thrived in her environment. Miss Minnie was a great lady, both onstage, with her hilarious antics, and off, where Sarah Cannon was an incredible force for good in the Nashville community.
Sometimes, it’s not the choices our family makes, but our own that change our situation. When I was a little girl, I had two dreams. One was of a happy family with a mommy, daddy, and two or three kids. The other was to write stories. Very early, I found out that writing stories might not pay much, so I aimed at being a teacher and writing stories on the side. Little did I know that the happy family dream would come first, putting the teaching and writing goals on hold. But, today, I have three kids and four really grand kids, and I’m still in love with their really grand daddy. At work, I teach people to use computers, and the writing? … It’s coming along. It took a little while, and a much different route than I had anticipated, but hey, I’m blooming in my own way.
You still want to hear how our family tree made it from Kansas to Arkansas, and now has branches in Texas and Florida? Good. That means I still have stories to write. As springtime comes to the Ouachitas, enjoy your family gardens, wherever they may be planted.