I spent this last Thanksgiving with my fiance’s family in a new location. I am slowly beginning to understand what it means to enter a family as an adult. Family is where our history lives. They are the people who can say, “that is the face mom used to make” and tell stories about their grandparents even though they may have grandchildren of their own. I really began to consider of all of the miracles and brushes of fate that bring us to the common table.
The next time you gather, listen for the others that are present at the table in the stories we tell. Some fought in a war, some built towns, enjoyed occupations that no longer exist, or spoke languages that have been lost. When many of our ancestors immigrated they were single-mindedly focused on survival. Many families only have vague areas of possible ancestry such as “near Germany,” “Eastern Europe” or “Ashkenazi” Jewish backgrounds. Our immigrant ancestors didn’t comprehend that we would one day sit at a big table wondering who they were, where they were from and why they left!
Take a moment over the holidays to look around your table for those who have passed but still live on in your family lore. There are grannies, uncles, and cousins that have become stories that intersect with history. They sit at the table and in keeping their memories alive they celebrate with us. Start the conversation, and I promise you will learn more about yourself and how you came to be. Try a simple open-ended question: What was grade school like back then? What do you remember about the old house? What is your middle name and where did it come from?