Saturday, October 17, 2009

Celebrate the Past, Build for the Future

I unexpectedly celebrated family history three times this week. I’m delighted these three events happened during Family History Month.

The first time, my daughter Becky asked if she could interview me for a class project. Of course, I said yes to her request, but I never imagined she would help me remember my own life.

We met at my house Wednesday night and any time we spend together is special. This is due to my busy work schedule and her own hectic life. So I opened a bottle of Black Oak Shiraz and we sat at our kitchen table, the best interview spot of the house.

She told me the interview was for her women and justice class and she needed to talk with a single mother who used child care. I fit the bill since I have been divorced since 1993, and Becky began child care at eight weeks old.

The assignment was the result of the latest round of budget cuts which will cost child care centers anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to renew their licenses in January. It’s a huge issue, but it prompted Becky to ask me about the costs and choices I made. Her questions resurrected memories long past.

Becky went to a private caregiver’s home for about two years, then to another private home for a few months. When that caregiver moved, I chose a center close to the school where Becky would attend kindergarten. Once I discovered that the center, located directly across the street from the school, could not transport her back and forth, we made one more move to Kindercare.

As we talked, both Becky and I remembered caregiver’s names and faces, playmates and locations. She could remember the first private home and playmates from so many years ago.

I never considered child care to be a part of family history, but the people we met, the skills my daughter learned and the friends we made helped to make us what we are today.

The second time, I decided to eat lunch in my family room while I watched television. I couldn’t find anything interesting on the usual channels so I selected History Detectives on PBSW. I can’t tell you what or when I saw it before, but I recognized the show and it was fantastic.

The History Detectives investigate cases about heirlooms or family legends presented by viewers. The way they research and track connections offer inspiration for any family sleuth. Check out what I mean at

And, last but not least, the third event was the news of Michelle Obama’s genealogy. This story originated in the New York Times and is now on web sites and television. You can read it in the New York Times at

The article by Rachel L. Swarns and Jodi Kantor share the research of professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak who traced Obama’s ancestry.

Two phrases from the article stand out to me. The first is a quote from Edward Ball who says, “We are not separate tribes of Latinos and whites and blacks in America. We’ve all mingled, and we have done so for generations.”

And Swarns and Kantor share that, “As for his ancestry, Dolphus Shields didn’t talk about it,” because the family had gotten to a place where they didn’t want anyone to know they were slaves.” Dolphus was Obama’s great, great-grandfather.

I believe if we each research our family history back far enough, we will find poverty, abuse and other stories we would prefer to forget.

The purpose of Family History month is “to bring your family together to remember and honor your ancestors,” according to Many groups across the country, including the Family History Society of Arizona, created momentum to have October designated as Family History month in 2003.

And, I believe they did it, because they understood knowing where we have been leads us to where we are going. Isn’t that what family history is all about? Celebrate the past, build for the future.


Frank said...

This has to be one of my favorite posts. I give it five pnkies.

Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna said...

Considering you only have one pinkie to give, that's pretty high rating. Thank you. Or, are you counting your pinkies on your toes?