Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to eat an Elephant

Future guitar virtuoso here. I know, that's kind of a bold statement. I figured if I didn't put it out in front of the entire universe, it might slip off into nothingness... like the many New Year's resolutions that I have made over the years. I did an impulsive thing a few weeks ago. I signed up for guitar lessons. I've only had four lessons, but I was kind of hoping to be playing Stairway to Heaven by now. All I've mastered is the five note version of Beethoven's Song of Joy. I just started taking cooking classes too. The hope is that we start eating something a little more exciting than canned soup or cold cereal, but that's probably also a long way off.

The point is, we've all got to start somewhere. It's not like I've found a couple of extra hours a week to take on these new activities. I've just come to the realization that life isn't going to slow down. If I want to accomplish all of my dreams, I'm going to have to get moving.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. EVERYONE knows that! I'm now trying to apply that lesson to specific area's of my life.

Gratefully, I've seen small successes over the years as I reapply this principle. Several years ago I knew very little of my family history. I couldn't tell you much more than my grandparents' names or where they lived. I knew nothing of their parents or grandparents. My mom had done an amazing job of starting the process of unraveling our roots. I always planned to sit by her side and take her work to the next level. Her unexpected death was not part of the plan. Neither was having my father give away all of her research. (To this day, I can't figure that one out!)

Fast forward six years... In spite of the setbacks, I can gratefully say that I have become familiar with the generations that came before me. They are more than just a name or a date. I have been able to learn of the challenges and sacrifices that paved the way for my life of relative comfort.

The information didn't come easy. I spent long (LATE) nights doing research. I think that is why I cherish the stories all the more! I learned that my great-grandmother was a 21st century woman living in the Victorian era. She was a prominent opera singer when she became the mother of her best friend's three young children. Even though she married this friend's husband to honor a deathbed request, she caused quite the scandal because of her musical career. She changed the focus of her dreams to stand by a man that (from my research, at least) turned out to be a soft, pampered elitist. (Elitist sounds so much nicer than snob, don't you think?) I know that I'm supposed to respect my elders, but listen to the rest of the story before you judge me...

The kids were all shipped off to boarding school in England and my GGma sat home while GGpa lost the family farm. Records indicate that he owned a respectable department store in the Boston area that went into foreclosure. By now, several more children had entered the picture. A relative on the west coast offered a ranch to GGpa, but GGpa considered himself an expert on textiles, not cattle and turned the job down. Things must have become a bit of a struggle, because around 1913 GGma boarded a train for a five day trip to Spokane in search of work for her husband. She interviewed the manager of the Crescent Dept. Store and based on her recommendations procured a job for him. She then returned to Boston, packed everything up and moved the family to Washington state! During the 1920's, her efforts landed GGpa as the main distributor of Salada Tea for all of the Northwestern States and Alaska. Business flourished, but the marriage didn't and the Great Depression found Great-Grandma, along with my grandmother on the move again.

This story didn't come together in one night. It's taken time; a whole lot of time! A stolen minute here... sometimes an entire hour there, but bit by bit, I am piecing the history together and I now have a better understanding of who I am.

This genealogy research must be what it feels like to eat the proverbial elephant. I've gotta say, elephant is not bad tasting! I'm actually ready to dig in for a second and third serving while I give this guitar and cooking thing a try.

1 comment:

samnarene said...

Good for you, Lauri! Keep nibbling away on that "elephant" and have fun with your new guitar and cooking adventures. I enjoyed reading about your GGma.