“Family // like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one”
NEWNAN, Georgia // I always pictured our family as a tree and my grandparents as the trunk. Each branch an aunt or uncle and my fellow cousins and I as leaves. Everyone reaching up and out in hopes of finding their face in the sun. All these years though I overlooked the root system that my grandparents grew from. I have never asked to learn about my ancestral roots until recently and for that I apologize to my family. I am listening now.
We’ve recorded hours of interviews with a few of our grandparents. I’ve learned so much about them, the history of our nation, and the world. I feel like I’m listening to an entire generation speak and they all echo one word // survival. They are a gritty and tenacious generation who overcame World Wars, Stock Market Crashes, and the poverty associated with immigrating to a new country.
They survived the holocaust in ghettos of Shanghai. They went out on the ranch as teenagers for months at a time fending against wild animals. They lost everything in the stock market crash. They shared beds and always worked to help the family. They made gas masks for the war on assembly lines, worked as butchers, and on railroads. They got pregnant and married and served their countries before they were old enough drink. They flew helicopters in Vietnam and saved lives. They had big families and loved their children even though they didn’t vocalize it in words. There are roots as far back as a fur trapper in Montana, a plantation owner in Missouri, and 1722 Zurich, Switzerland. They didn’t celebrate birthdays and sometimes the greatest gift was an ounce of butter. But they retell their stories stoically without any outward signs of hardship or complaint. It was what it was and they survived.
I feel ungrateful for all I have. The word spoiled comes to mind. What’s ironic is that I think they were happier than us. Perhaps happier is the wrong word. They were unbroken which in a sense makes them stronger characters than us. I think the greatest honor we can give to them is to remember their legacy and embrace our roots because we cannot change them and we can never forget them. We will hopefully be compiling our footage into full documentaries for our families to put in the time capsule to honor our roots.
This post is dedicated to our Grandparents // Thanks for sitting down with us and telling your stories. We love you. Also dedicated to my Aunt Julie // Thanks for caring about where we came from and for doing all the hard work for me on the Shular side.