The family tree and other scary stories.

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.                        ~ Shirley Abbott

Yesterday my daughter (I’ll refer to her as DJ in this post.) and I went on a little road trip to our home town, Boone, NC.  It was good to get out of the humidity and enjoy the mountains.  We went up to have lunch with my youngest sister and to take some things for her thrift shop.  We were all happy to see each other and had a nice time together as we caught up with what’s going on in whose life over lunch.

After lunch DJ and I walked down to Daniel Boone Native Gardens.  It’s one of her favorite spots.  I hadn’t been there in years so I was happy to see it again and snap a few photos.  No matter how many times I return to my native “stomping grounds” I continue to be taken aback by how green everything is.  The reason is, of course, the fact that there is adequate (an understatement) rainfall there.  I took this photo of ferns in the moss and fern garden to emphasize the green-ness of it all.

From the beginning to the end of our little tour, we kept seeing plaques honoring, thanking, memorializing people with my family surname, people I knew or sorta knew as a child.  I started thinking about the family tree  and where these people should be placed on said tree.  I grew up thinking they must have been on the right side, up high, reaching for the sun (or the moon).  And we must have been on the left side barely above the root system, struggling for a little ray of light to keep us alive and growing.  That was my perception, more or less.  Alas, perceptions aren’t always reality.

Why did I have that perception?  That’s the question I’ve had rolling around in my brain this afternoon.  It sounds like a simple enough question, but of course it’s actually very complex.  As a child and a young person, I thought they have money and we don’t.  They are educated and we are not.  They have fancy homes and we do not.

I know now that my perceptions, my attitudes toward the upwardly mobile branches of the family came from my insecure parents.  And they got their attitudes from their parents.  Who knows why brothers and cousins from the same family started out with equal amounts of wealth and acres of land– in the same county at about the same time and some wound up wealthy while others were destitute?  That’s the way it’s always been and ever will be.  Different personalities.  Different sets of skills and training.  Different ambitions.

I’m happy to say that the destitute don’t have to stay that way.  They can learn things.  They can go to the university.  They can have a better life than their parents, and in so doing they teach their children that lesson as well.  My childhood wasn’t always fun but I learned how to survive and then how to thrive.  Would I have learned those valuable life lessons if I hadn’t suffered hardships growing up?  I also know now that those “Ozzie and Harriet” relatives probably weren’t.  They were just people fumbling much like the rest of us.

My Hometown by The Boss.


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20 thoughts on “The family tree and other scary stories.

  1. I really enjoyed this, Pat. We unconsciously absorb so much from our parents, and some of it is not so good. But the important think is to recognise that and try to realise our potential. You seem to me to have the right attitude – look forward to more of your inspiring insights.
    PS Looks like a beautiful place.

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  2. This is very true. Our past, and our roots, does not define us. Beautiful pictures, by the way! My family is from Appalachia and many of these shots remind me of the old family homestead.

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  3. Nice. I just recently traced my family tree six generations back, and mapped it out (I have a blog in progress on it – Eight Generations link). I too have the perception that they’re on the right side of the tree, while we’re on the other side. I think it was because of the story that my grandfather left the ‘clan’ after a falling out or disagreement, and set up roots across the sea instead. I have plans to go back to that side of the tree and find out more. Hopefully, after two generations, those disagreements should not separate us again.

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  4. –Pat, I love the quote and I always love clicking over here to read the wisdom you have for your readers.
    My girlfriend, Tia, had a difficult childhood, but she tells her student this (all the time) “Your history and environment DOES NOT need to define you.”
    I love that.

    Xxx Smooch.

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  5. I really like this post Pat, and think it sums up your strength quite neatly. Despite being in the “wrong” side of the family, despite the hardship you knew as a child, you made it to the sunnier heights.
    You are an amazing person, and your children are lucky to have such a resourceful parent. xx

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