Pilgrims, tea parties, boats, and the like

Recently I've become interested in investigating my ancestry. Unfortunately, the most anyone can tell me is that we came to America at some point in history from someplace white people live. Nobody really seems to know, or care — not even my grandmother. This leads me to believe my family has been in America for a good long time, since nobody can seem to remember anything but that. I think that's kind of cool, actually. What if we came over on one of the first ships? I could totally dig that.

My friend Elise came up from San Diego to visit me last weekend, and we were discussing how and why certain parts of the world appeal to us. She said she'd always felt called to the landscape of the British Isles and Portugal, which is where her ancestors hail from.  She said she felt really comfortable when visiting the English countryside, like a feeling of belonging, of home.  Well, I get choked up whenever I hear our National Anthem, even if I'm balancing a beer and a dodger dog and trying to avoid stepping on something sticky.  Does that mean I have ancestral ties to America that are so old they're stronger than any other? Maybe… or it could just be the patriotic brainwashing we all received in elementary school while coloring pictures of the pilgrims and Indians eating Thanksgiving dinner together.

I heard another interesting thing on the radio recently: Studies have linked a person's heritage to his or her ability to learn accents. For instance, many Americans are decended from Southern Irish ancestors, and find a Dublin accent easy to learn, but have trouble with a Northern Irish one. I say it's just because that accent is weird, but who am I to say? But really, I like the theory, and I hope it's true. I think it's really cool that we could be tied to our ancestors in that way.

Another thing I've heard is that some wounds can be so deep they last for generations. Maybe this is why sometimes we find ourselves sad and don't know why, or why we're extra sensitive to certain topics. Elise wondered if something like that may explain why she's always been drawn to melancholy songs, even ones that are so maudlin they make her miserable. I wonder if it's the reason I'll start crying if I even imagine losing a lover. Maybe too many women in my family have watched the men in their lives die.  But then again, I've been known to cry at credit card commercials, too.  ("Going Home! It is priceless!  It's priiiiiiiicceeeelllleeeessssssss!")

Could this explain why sometimes we arrive at a place we've never seen, but it looks so familiar we just know we've been there before? Or when we have deja vu, could it be our great great great great grandmother had the exact same conversation, or sight, or sound, and that's why we get that feeling?

I wish I could find out more about what really happened. I wish I could read the diaries of my ancestors. That's why I'm going to write for as long as I live, so my thoughts can be waiting for my daughter, and her daughter, and on and on for a hundred years. So if they suddenly decide, as I have, that they want to know, they can. I want to give them a legacy. 

Or at least some bathroom reading material.

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1 Comment »

  1. 1
    atkeith Says:

    This is a very interesting theory. I have thought in the past that if you have a strong fear of something, maybe in another life or someone from the past connected to you died from the fear. Mine is drowning. Your theory may be so true. Since high school, I felt a connection to Ireland and when I went to visit, I never once felt uncomfortable or out of my element.
    I like your theory and am a believer


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