Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Long Look Back and a Big Deep Breath

My husband has been putting together a gift for our sons for about a year now. He's tracing our genealogy. Now, a first I admit, I wasn't as into it as he was. (I am not sure I still am, since he is up all hours of the night saving marriage certificates, searching Magyar Hungarians, and planning trips to Shropshire, England.)

It has almost completely changed my outlook on life, truthfully, and most definitely put my family life and past into perspective. It has knocked me off my feet. As a teenager, I was zoomed into myself and myself alone. It was simple. The world revolved around me and me alone. In retrospect, it's disgusting, but it's also enviable in a way since there wasn't much stress or consequence. In my 20's, I zoomed out a little. I remember it being a time for me to establish myself in my career, and hope that you keep your foothold. Each decade zooms you out a little more. Once I looked at this history, I can now see for miles, years, lifetimes and it's like a puzzle with each new shape forming to it's predecessors. It is very much like when I had a baby. It was like the history of my family unlocked a chapter and a key to the souls of my parents, and their parents. It was like I had some pages stuck together of my owners manual, and suddenly a baby's tears dissolved the adhesion between the pages, chapters and volumes. 

Walter Herbst (Grandfather) as a kid ca. 1925

Dad and Grandpa Herbst  ca. 1945
My family history is not necessarily fortunate throughout. It was hard fought, and desperate. It is amazing to research, read and then fill in with the stories from my parents these harrowing people I knew as "grandma" and grandpa". Through all the struggle and loss and lack of, they survived. They made it. They had children and shaped their lives. I hear in my mothers accounts the pain that she knew that my grandmother had. I think now, it's important that we knew her as a funny lady with broken English. I am just now able to begin to understand the profundity of her trip from here to Hungary, and back again. And her marriage to Archie, and how she loved her children. We found out that her parents made it here, and no one ever knew that, but there it was, on the 1910 Census. Wow. 

Grandpa Herbst (center) and Grandma (far right) ca. 1937

Uncle Joe, Aunt Jeanne and my parents at their wedding - September 26, 1964 

My husband has wanderlust also to visit his roots. Together we put our history together, and make present and will make a history for our children's children. It' very exciting. Each extension of a family line weaves our hearts and souls a little tighter as our history is revealed. 

Now, I feel very close to my roots. I feel that I need to travel and see where they came from, and left. I need to  see why they did it. How they did it, and how strong they really are. In a  strange way, the genealogy research has made me feel weak. I have had such an easy life in comparison. I want my tick on the line to mean something to Gil and his brother. I don't mean that I want to make a lot of money and they'll be happily ever after. I mean, I want them to grow to be good men, and good husbands. I want them to struggle and fight for what they want from life. After all, the saddest realization I have made of my beloveds is, the survival of an orphanage, or making it home after scouting in WWII, the end is the same. You will not see cancer on the census. You will not see alcoholism. You will not see heart attacks, but they are there somewhere. Death has nothing to do with life sometimes, but it does make me think that I need to start living and raising these boys and seeing the world. What is it they say? You can't take it with you...Damn right. 

**A few posts ago, I decided to put all family pictures up in our living/dining room. Now, it means so much more. My hope is to pass on the face and the story to Gil and "Mr. Baby". 

***Lastly, I PROMISE to get back to the house this week! Hubby and I are takign a few days off around the long weekend and will finish straggling projects and I will show you here. 
PREVIEW: Gil's new room started, the upstairs hallway and maybe a bathroom re-do.  yee! 

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