Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gratitude, part 4.

(Can I first say that the new editor on blogspot has an undo button, but no spell check? What the???)

I'm kind of a nerd (news, I know!). When I was 14, my mom and sister would drive up to Salt Lake City to get their hair cut, and my mom would drop me off at the genealogy library. I would spend a few hours, printing family group sheets and pedigree charts and whatnot. It was seriously something I loved doing and looked forward to. (Yeah, my gymnastics years took me a back a few social levels, obviously.)

Anyway, I totally had the genealogy bug. You could ask me anything about anyone within a few generations and I could tell you about them. I compiled all my stuff into a binder and added to it whenever I could. It kept me entertained for a while until I had actual friends. Ahem.

So, I don't spend a lot of time doing genealogy these days. But, due to a lesson last week at church, I found myself googling some names of those long-remembered but neglected names I learned in my teens. Google is the coolest (my husband can spend hours singing its praises. I'm learning, honey, I'm learning.) Did you know you can google an ancestor's name and all sorts of information about them will come up? Ok, sure, some of isn't relevant, but a lot of it is. I found out a lot of cool stuff about some people who previously had just been names on a pretty pedigree chart.

One of the cool stories was about a grandfather on my mom's side. I had been interested in his wife ever since I learned her name (Elizabeth), but I didn't know much about his family except that they settled Santaquin, Utah. I found out that his family (mother, father, and six or so brothers and sisters) came from England on a ship called the Horizon. They arrived in America only to hook up with the Martin Handcart Company. Now, any mormon knows that real, authentic, dyed-in-the-wool mormons are related to people in the handcart companies. I've always sort of tolerated stories about these companies (is this terrible of me to admit!!!???) because, while the stories are sad and faith-building and all of the rest of it, they weren't personal. I wasn't the one in sacrament meeting talking about great Aunt Sally and her sister, pushing the handcart. But suddenly, with the help of a little googling, I discovered I should sit up and pay a little more attention to such stories. They suddenly are personal to me. Me, a heathen by all accounts, has ancestors in the mother lode of pioneer lore. Who knew?

Actually, it's pretty amazing. My grandfather's brother wrote a daily journal from the time they left England to when they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, six months later. I haven't finished reading the whole account, but what I've read has left me a little in awe of this branch of the family. They left their ancestral home to journey to a place far, far away, suffering horrible tribulations along the way, all because of their faith. I found out another grandfather received his endowment in the Nauvoo Temple in January of 1846, a few months or weeks before he would uproot his family and jaunt across the plains with his family.

The whole experience has got me thinking of all the people who have lived before me. They weren't any better or worse than me (okay, they probably were a lot better, but you know what I mean.) They lived, married, had a few children who lived and those children repeated the cycle down the ages until I showed up. And here I am, following suit. I like to think of the symmetry of our lives; we are the singular grain of sand, suspended in the center point of the hourglass. Above us is our past, our ancestors who made their choices, making our lives possible. Pouring down away from us are our own children, and their children, and so on, who will exist because of us. Even though we are all moving in different directions, we all are held together by the hourglass itself, until we all end up together at the bottom, a sea of individuals with collective bonds.

So today, I'm pretty grateful for ancestors, and their stories that make them real.


Jeff and Kayci Bitton said...

I LOVED this post!! I am into the new family search, we are taking the young women to get started on their history tomorrow. I don't have anything and I mean NOTHING on this side of the family. I need to get in touch with the files you have...:) Thank you for the beautiful analogy at the end. I love thinking about it. I even read it to Jeff who liked it too. Love ya!