|L-R: My grandmother Evelyn, my mother Bobbie, |
her sisters Audrey, Shirley and Terri (front).
As my niece Devon’s preschool class sang “God Bless America,” I could hear her distinctive voice loud and clear. For a little girl, she has a big voice. Low-pitched, loud and without much inflection. She sounds just like my grandmother.
Cheerful, exuberant, and a little off-key, you could hear my grandmother’s singing voice resonating throughout the small community church she attended every Sunday. Although three generations separate them, Devon has inherited my grandmother’s enthusiasm for singing. And a little bit of her voice.
I often wonder which of my quirks or interests are woven into my identity from family members I never got the chance to know. My dad’s mother died when he was very young, but she had a job baking in the kitchens of Nabisco in the 1920s. I like to think I inherited some of my passion for baking from her. I never met one of my mother’s sisters who died before I was born. But I know my grandmother and all my aunts had a flair for fashion and jewelry, evidenced by the glittering brooches and necklaces they left behind.
|My grandmother Victoria is seated right, and to the left of her |
standing are her sisters, Maggie and Annie.
What I do doesn’t end with me. It’s carried on. I want to leave an archive of my life’s values, truths learned, and unique experiences. I am part of the link that connects the generations before me to those who come after me. Whether I’m doing things I’m comfortable with. Or a little out of my realm.
Last weekend, I took Devon to her last soccer game of the season. Walking to the field with her chair slung over my shoulder and water bottles in my hands, I pretended to know what I was doing. Standing on the sidelines with the “real” moms. Explaining that I was “just the aunt” in case I was committing some violation of soccer-mom etiquette. Trying to jockey for a spot alongside the eager parents for a team photo.
There she sat on the stage, cradling her soccer trophy. I saw her eyes darting from row to row of the parents gathered. Scanning. Searching. Finally, she saw me and smiled proudly, holding up the trophy, with its spinning soccer ball. I asked her afterward if she was looking for me. She said yes, but there were so many people, she couldn’t find me at first.
I was a little surprised she was looking for me among her school friends and neighborhood teammates. But maybe she wanted a member of her family to cheer her proud moment and celebrate her accomplishment of this first soccer season. Maybe I’m not just the aunt. Maybe I can help her take the threads of the past -- all the family traits, mannerisms and characteristics -- and interlace them with the ribbons of the future. Stretching across the generations. Weaving the memories of life.