I spend a lot of my time working on my family tree. It excites me. I love filling in all the blanks, solving mysteries, uncovering truths and frankly looking through old documentation is thrilling. I’ve always been interested in this type of thing, perhaps I should have been a historian.
I’ve traced my family back (in some branches) to the 1300’s. I’ve started recently trying to research the actual people in the tree now instead of just filling in the blanks, sometimes a daunting task as it’s hard to find information. You can’t help but wonder though, when you go through the process; who you most resemble or why you’re the person you are.
I’m a bit of an odd duck. I don’t say this with embarrassment but with pride. I can be a ‘princess’ who likes the finer things in life, can’t go to the grocery store without makeup, doesn’t like the cold, gets upset when she’s given bad service, and can display great etiquette when I need to. I can also be crass, down to earth, say things when I shouldn’t (not thinking before speaking), lose my temper, and crochet in front of the T.V. in my sweatpants eating bonbons…
In general, I look like my father’s side of the family but I display personality traits from both sides. It started to make me think about my Grandmother’s both of whom I love and respect, but very different women none-the-less.
On my mother’s side my Grandmother is called Evelyn; of English and Welsh influence she is still alive and well today at 86. She amazes me really. She’s fit and spry, likes golfing and dinner parties. In her lifetime she’s held several jobs; real estate, farmer and owner of a successful Bridal business to name a few. She always looks well put together (except for Christmas mornings), always has meticulous hair and her face made up.
Her home is collection of Royal Dalton, elaborately framed artwork (mainly painted by family), florals, pinks, blues, and a few stray antiques here and there. Growing up she was the Grandma that made pot roast on Sundays, who preferred when you were dressed up and well put together. Some may refer to her as snobby or ‘fake’ but in truth this is just who she is now, and who she’s been for years… she’s not going to change anytime soon. She is always very wary about what others might think of her and her family. She is very much a ‘put your best foot forward’ type of lady.
When she smoked (she’s quit now), she would wrap a plastic grocery bag around her hair and drape a robe over her clothes. She would proceed then to smoke a half a pack of cigarettes blowing it out the kitchen window. When she was done, she would throw the bag in the garbage, hang her robe on a bush outside, and hide her cigarettes. For the rest of the day she would pretend she didn’t smoke and would tell other’s that they shouldn’t smoke, mostly because it’s not lady-like. Yes, that is the kind of lady my grandmother is in a nutshell; the cigarette example is kind of the way she handles life in general.
I love my grandmother Evelyn; I think she’s just misunderstood. She is interesting, talented and well travelled which she could talk about all day.
On my father’s side is my Grandmother Aggie (Agnes). She died of cancer in 1991 and I will never forget her. Born in Ireland with Irish parents she was never afraid to say exactly what she meant to say, whether it was politically correct or not. She was a big and robust woman who in my memory was always smiling and laughing. Although I’m sure from time to time she wore make-up, she wouldn’t have hesitated to leave the house without it. She worked in the postal service for most of her life and was a proud member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She made friends easily and held them close. She could often be found on her brown velour sofa watching soap operas while crocheting and smoking..all at the same time. She had many fascinating trinkets in her home in a hodge podge kind of way; a mish mash of all types of different things put together. This is the Grandma we’d go to the cottage with, who would dress like a teenager for a sleep over with me, and who bought me my first set of fake nails (because I liked them and she said I should have them - didn’t matter I was only 10 years old).
She would slip money in our pockets for the candy store (usually rolls of Quarters, Nickels or Dimes), and she used to write me tones of letters. Grandma Aggie was so proud and honored to have her grandkids, and it showed.
She loved to drive..and would drive fast. I remember once my brother Duncan and I were driving with her to the city (both of us in the front seat without seatbelts) in her 40 foot car (ok I’m exaggerating a little), when she was pulled over for speeding. She was so excited! It was her first speeding ticket; you would’ve thought she’d won an award.
Grandma was humble but also well travelled. She kept a charm bracelet with a charm from every place she had visited. I have that charm bracelet today and cherish it.
I am BOTH of these women…quite an odd mix. Up until recently I was not proud about who I was, probably because I never put any thought into what my DNA consisted of. Today I laugh at myself, especially when I’m acting like both of them at the same time: (Picture this: Smart looking business woman in a suit behind the wheel of her large and dirty SUV loses it because the person in front of her is only driving the speed limit!).
I can appreciate for the first time in my life who I am and where I come from; there’s not a more liberating feeling in the world.