Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baton Passing

When I was growing up, I used to love to sit and listen to the family stories. Sometimes, it was Daddy sharing stories to eat up the miles as we headed home to New Orleans from Mobile. On other occasions, it was Mama, weaving tales of ten children and a small house in rural Louisiana. Stories of family pride, triumph, and hardship were passed down from Grandpa Leo and Grandma Pearl in their kitchen in Mobile.

I was blessed to know nine of my biological grandparents and great-grandparents. As a little girl, I was always aware of the broad shoulders on which I stood. As the child of parents who grew up on the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement, I became aware of my place in this world as a little African American girl growing up in the south. Because our family stories were told without malice, I learned how to love my fellow man while still being proud of my heritage.

I was fortunate to share some of that history with my Andrew (6) tonight after dinner. I don't know how it started, but I told him about the nine grands. Then, I pulled out the family album from the last reunion and we went over the pictures. We looked at Papa Jonah, who took care of his Native American mother deep in the swamps until her death. When he left those swamps, he married my Mama Sweetie (Annie Bell) and they raised their children on a farm. Mama Sweetie lost her eye at the age of nine, picking cotton in the cotton fields. There were other stories of courage and heroism. I saw the light of family pride flare up in my oldest child's eyes as he too became aware of the shoulders on which he stands. There are more stories and I can't wait to continue to pass on the rich oral traditions of my family.

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