In the Arms of our Ancestors

This morning, as I was rinsing some dishes at the sink, Jeffrey hollered from down the hall that he needed help "I'm stuck, I'm stuck!"- I heard my husband head down the hall, but he stopped and grabbed the camera, and motioned for me to "look at your son". Somehow Jeffrey had managed to knock a picture off the wall in the hallway, and he was precariously holding it to the wall with his upstretched arms, . He was also, for some reason, butt-naked. The picture is a very old photograph of my grandmother, taken before she started school- she's about 4 1/2, the same age as Jeffrey. When he knocked it off the wall, the old frame came apart, and the photo, glass, backing and pieces of frame were all separated. I gathered the broken parts and both boys watched me as I pieced everything back together on the kitchen counter. It probably needs professional help, but then so do I, and I'm not getting it either, so a little masking tape and some tiny nails made do. Then, I carefully hung the picture back on the wall, and Jeffrey asked "Who is that, Mom?" Huh? What? How could he not know who that is?? I stopped, a tiny bit stunned, a tiny bit ashamed, he didn't know that was my Grandma. I had always known who was in that picture- it hung in my aunt's home, until she gave it to me, out of the blue, one day. It's not a copy, even the frame is original, and my grandma would tell me stories about her life from when the picture was taken. How could my children not know about this remarkable woman? And that got me thinking. If I neglected to tell my children the stories of our ancestors, of who the people are in the old photographs, of what their lives were about and how they spent their time on the earth, a vital part of who they are would be lost. My children's lives would be less rich, less textured, without a knowledge of who came before. The photographs on the walls would become just old photographs, unknown and forgotten. The thing about those photographs, which I learned from my grandma just this morning, is that even though we may only have a fading picture or some letters, the lives they lived were every bit as complicated, joyfull, painful, rich and varied as our own. They had loves, ideas, imaginations, victories and human frailties, just as we do. It is so easy to forget this, and allow them to become one-dimensional, if we do not teach our children "Who is that?". Some of you are blessed with carefully kept family records and genealogy back dozens of generations- be very grateful. As a convert, I can tell you this is not the norm in the world. I am working on my family, little or no information was kept- there are so many lost. Even finding the names of my great-grandparents is proving difficult. But that is one of the most beautiful and hopeful tenets of the Restoration- None will be lost. And this fact makes me all the more determined to find and teach my children about who we are and from whom we come. (I don't want my grandma thumping my ears because my kids don't know her when they finally are able to meet her!) We have promises about what is to come, about our salvation, about who we are and who our forefathers are- not were, but still are. We also have the hope of "No empty chairs". Today, I am deeply grateful for the all-encompassing love and completeness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And my kid knocking a picture off the wall is what brought me here.


Anonymous Susan M said...

Thanks for this Tracy, you've reminded me that I need to start setting time apart on Sundays for genealogy work.

My grandma wanted to be opera singer when she was young. I never knew this until just before she died. I can't ever remember hearing her sing, once.

6/18/2006 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

One of the sad things about my husband's fractured family is the parents didn't talk about their pasts, and a lack of bonds between living relatives, let alone dead ones. History is important.

6/19/2006 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Absolutely do tell your kids all you know (and write it down for the future) about your family. It's sad that your great grandparents' stories might be lost for now, but it's not too late to memorialize the family members you remember. Someday, when your kids have grandchildren, the stories you tell them will live on, and generations will be linked together that way.

What a blessing it will be for your descendants to know YOU someday.

6/19/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Tracy, this is a very cool post. I'm glad you were given this reminder to teach your kdis about your family, even if you don't have all the details.

When I was in high school, I went on a short roadtrip with my mom and her mom, my grandma and decided to ask a bucnh of questions about my grandma. Grandma is a fun lady and had a great time answering my questions, especially questions about my grandma who died shortly after my parents were married. I learned more about my grandparents' actual personalities that day than at any othe rtime. Something I will treasure and try to pass on to my kids.

6/19/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

sorry, in the previous post it was my grandma answering questions about her husband, my grandpa. Can't type today.

6/19/2006 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

It's a pretty simple procedure to have a negative made of the original. Then you can get cheap, but really nice-looking antiquey frames at Wal-Mart and your kids can have one of their own.

I've done this with a lot of pictures. My uncle, who I will pee on his grave someday, wouldn't give us mementos when my grandma died. He finally took a GROCERY BAG, just a plastice grocery bag, full of pictures to my other uncle, who let me look through it.

I found a picture of my grandma as a child, with her four sisters, stuck to the back of another picture. It infuriates me to think of it even now. I sent it off, had it restored and made sure everyone in the family got copies.

What a putz. Don't tell Adam I said that.

6/19/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mark B. said...

What ever has happened to "buck" naked?

Did it go the way of political correctness?

Or has it taken that forbidden path and got lost, along with taking a different tack (tact, anyone?)?

6/28/2006 04:34:00 PM  

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