In the warmth of the morning sun I ride Peanut, my Shetland pony, down the winding dirt trail through the grove past my great-grandmothers house while dodging the occasional orange tree limb. We trot across the open meadow where the garden was planted in the spring and around the corner where the briars are thick and the blackberries are sweet. We turn back heading down to the boondocks, where either a small stream or a trickle of water can be flowing through the little ravine. The hope is always for enough water for Peanut to jump across rather than trot right through. We continue up the hill, past Granny Suggs rabbit pen, through the grapefruit grove and across the clay road.
I’m on my way to have a picnic. I’m not alone, they are all there. Aunts, Uncles, grandpas and grandmas at least seven generations back. I know them all. As I walk with my great-grandmother, she tells me stories of her favorite sister Creasy, her Uncle Asbury who was killed in the war, and the neighbor that caused her much distress letting food go bad instead of giving it to another in need. Regardless of their relation, they all now lay resting in the small community cemetery, each with a different headstone or a memorable symbol I use to remember their story. As she places the flowers in the vase at the base of Papa Johnson’s grave, she reminds me that she just couldn’t hold on to her two boys, Olin and Paul, which her husband now rests beside. “Only the girls were strong enough to make it,” she says in a quiet voice. Even at the young age of five, I know her heart is torn.
Fast forward forty (40) years; With my own children grown up and gone off on their own adventures, I turn to the stories of my childhood re-igniting an addictive passion within me. “Genealogy”.
As I share my great-grandmothers stories with my husband, I realize that he never knew any of his ancestors. How could this be? How could he not know his Grandparents? I now realize how lucky I was growing up surrounded by family. I had three of my four grandparents and one very healthy great-grandma, which I saw most every day. It seems our family lived in the same small community forever. I always knew where I came from or should I say who I came from and the stories told by a great woman who wished to keep her ancestors memories alive. Some died in a war, others from a disease that’s now been extinguished some five or six decades, and then there were those who died of old age, but they all had stories, great stories.