Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More on Old Dudes

Like my picture? You know, the old dude sitting on the ground, pondering. I wonder if he ever could have known that in the year 2005 his son’s son’s son’s sons’ daughter would be sitting around pondering about him. On a computer. In a blog. That complete strangers around the world could read. I bet he would have liked that!

That old dude is my great-great-great grandfather, William. He was a CSA veteran, rumored to be the only one in his family to survive the War between the States. He’s the enigma of my father’s genealogical line—The One beyond whom we cannot find ancestry. His father died when he was young, and his mother quickly remarried, so there are not (at this point in my research) any records existing of who his father was (none that weren’t destroyed when the South was burned). Thank you, General Sherman. Your march took away something from generations to come that can never be given back.

You might wonder why it matters. I sometimes ask myself that, during moments of frustration when the records lead me to another dead end. After all, my present is my joy and my future is my focus. I have three beautiful children, a husband who should be canonized for putting up with me, and a family I love. I’m working on building my own legacy by improving myself, supporting my husband, and by loving my children and teaching them the values, morals, and scriptural truths they will need to build their own legacies.

Still, there’s something to be said for knowing who started this whole sh’bang that became my life. They’re pieces in the history of my state and country that make so many distant and faraway things seem so present. I can understand the Great Depression from reading about it in a history book; I can experience it through the eyes of my Great-Grandma, or my husband’s Granny’s childhood. I like to watch The Patriot and read about the founding and founders of our nation; but knowing that my ancestors Enoch, Thomas, and others gave their all to create a nation built on freedom and opportunity fills my spirit with pride in their accomplishments and in my country.

I can watch documentaries about the War between the States, or read historical writings, and these things help me to get it, for sure. But when I learn that my ancestor, who never owned any slaves, fought bravely to defend his nation, a nation that lasted only four years, because he wanted to preserve the agricultural, locally-governed, southern heritage in which he believed… That melts my heart. To see that his heritage has been hijacked by a handful of small-minded fools, that his battle flag was commandeered in the 60s by hateful bigots, and that very few people even remember that there was a small, fledgling country that issued its own money, operated its own government, earned international recognition, and made illegal the importation of slaves—these things weigh heavy on me.

I think about the things that I hold so dearly to be right—freedom, harmony with nature, the primacy of the family in social life, racial equality, gender equality, the importance of education, and the power of prayer. What will these things mean to my children’s children, and to the generations to come? Will they know that in 2005, a woman sat down at her computer, challenging them to remember?

My dreams for the future of my family extend so far beyond just my children. In learning about my ancestry, I’ve become acutely aware that in building strong children, I’m building for their children as well. You don’t leave a legacy in one generation. You build it throughout eternity.

My father is Thomas, and his father is Arthur, and his father was Roy, and his father was Lonnie, and his father was William. My mother is Tina, and her mother is Louise, and her mother was Victoria, and her mother was Maggie. They loved their children and grandchildren, and they would love my children and grandchildren and would want me to raise them right to continue the beautiful legacies in which even they were only a part. I’m doing my best…

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