Well, I’ve been swinging through the branches of the family tree again. One branch in particular. Elsie, also known as my Farm Gramma and my Story Gramma, came from quite the tribe!
She came, as far as I know, from a family of 12 kids, seven of them girls. As the story goes, my Great-Grandfather, Jonathan Royce, built an outhouse with 5 seats so the girls could work instead of standing in line! (This is not a legacy I care to repeat!)
More of the family myth holds that Jonathan promised each of his daughters a string of gold beads if they graduated from high school. My Aunt Em loved to tell this story as she had beads and Elsie didn’t.
Elsie, it seems, quit high school to marry Frank who, according to their engagement announcement in the local paper, “was, of all things, a Democrat!”
One thing led to another and, about 25 years later, my Dad came along, the last of six kids and, if the rumors are true, a bit of a surprise.
It was Frank’s family who arrived in New England on a little boat known as the Mayflower. There were also a significant number of preachers in the crowd, many of them in/famous, depending on your perspective!
I’ve been curious about Elsie’s crowd. And I’ll tell you now that I haven’t found the beginning of that story yet.
I am, as of last night, 36 generations of direct Grammas and Grampas back into the story which is also my story. That is, if you’re curious, somewhere into the early 900’s CE.
Along the way I’ve met some British nobles of various sorts and degrees of fame. That squared with some of the stories I don’t remember hearing but have always, somehow, known. And there’s more sorting there to do. Especially on the side branches.
I was still hunting, though, because the CRI Genetics DNA test I did said that I had ancestors from places variously known as Iberia and France and Italy.
That was a mystery! A mystery that turns out to have a fair number of names and places to go with it.
Lots of Elsie’s folks, it seems, were from Tuscany. That explains the energy jolt and buckets of tears I experienced when I first got off a plane in Florence, Italy a little more than three years ago.
It’s a feeling I’ve only had twice before. The first time was when I got out of my car in the pouring rain on a cold day in November and put my feet on the circular parking drive in front of Columbia Theological Seminary.
The second was when I struggled with cranky knees to get down the steps from a plane to solid ground in Glasgow, Scotland.
It seems that Tuscany and Glasgow were part of my from story and Columbia, at that point, was part of my to story.
Here’s the thing, though. The from-s and the to-s seem to be bumping into each other a lot lately.
I spend a lot of time wondering what will be created out of my particular versions of from and to. And, kind of surprisingly, the more complex all of it gets, the more right it feels, possibly because I’m busy learning new things.
I also wonder about what all these stories might mean to my girls one of these days.
For today, though, I’m listening to a millennia of those who went before me and wondering what they learned in their times. Their times which included plagues and famines. Corrupt leaders. Little notion of rights unless you held a title. Women’s rights only among a few religious groups still surrounded by the mists of limited literacy and voice.
I long to sit in circle with all those generations of Grammas, each of us holding our piece of the red thread and reminding ourselves that Grandmothers Are In Charge of Hope.
This certainly seems like a good time for that! But first, I’m going to do hope and ask again, in case you haven’t seen this, if you might be able to help a young woman from India to share her amazing gifts and perspective with the world. Any gift is both welcome and hugely appreciated. This is one of those things most of us can’t do ourselves, but, like the red thread, many of us together can! Go Fund Me
ps… the photo above? A modern copy of the way they kept tax records in Elsie’s time! Art truly finds its ways…