Family stories matter. It is important to know them and to understand their meaning.
My graduate school thesis was titled, Family Folklore and the Role of Storytelling.
Here’s an excerpt.
Both of my grandmothers, my mother, and my aunt married by the time they were 18 years old, but I believed this was the custom of their generation, something old-fashioned and not relevant to my life. These women grew up in Jewish communities in Brooklyn, fourteen hundred miles from where I was raised in New Orleans, and yet their marriage stories were remarkably similar to my own. Through my research on family folklore and the role of storytelling, I learned that this was no coincidence. I learned that the values and beliefs of my family had been passed down through stories, and for the first time in my life, I understood that the choices I made as an adult were not always random, individual choices but actually family policy.
I go on to ask,
How free are we to choose our destiny?
How much of what we do is dictated to us by the generations before us?
Every family has its lore, and without awareness our individual choices may not really be choices. We may simply be following a path that someone else has determined for us.
“History is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” – James Baldwin
In doing family research, I came to realize how my ancestors and their stories (including family lessons, rules and expectations) have swayed me.
Could it be true that I might have made different choices if family history had been analyzed?
It’s hard to know for certain but in understanding that family stories shape us, it seems essential that we continue to explore our cultural heritage.
You can chose to repeat your family history, or parts of it, but maybe you don’t have to. You can create your own story: take what you need and leave the rest.
Your roots run deep in spite of being from out of town! and blood is thicker than water. I believe I am a cousin of yours ,,,,lol .Even if you choose a different path, everyone still seeks love and security. Everyone needs to express themselves and no two people are alike even though it appears like a cookie cutter plan . Sooner or later after much exploration we become homing pigeons. It is human nature to take things for granted and especially when it appears we have many options .we can no longer blame the pickle jar ,,, but hey,,, those pickles are cozy packed up all nestled together ,,,swimming in the same jar. When you take a pickle out it dries up and shrivels ,,,,
I would also add, how so much convention, mimmickry and timidity shape our actions as a response to the cultural impress.
Automatic. Really hardly a thought and more a case of, often, thoughtlessly going with the way "things are done around here" mind set. To get along and to go along yet often suffering the consequences when it does not fit.