I enjoy being able to say where I came from. Much of this stems from the work that my Aunt Lisa has been doing in documenting the family tree on my mother’s side; this is a thankless job consisting largely of digging through roughly 12 billion fading black-and-white photographs with illegible scribbles in Finnish on the back.
Years ago, Lisa made me a book that traced my family back to my Great Great Great Grandfather. It then followed the family tree down through the years with a series of dour family photographs shot either in Finland (my family’s country of origin), northern Ontario (which is like Finland but with less cell phone technology), or in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (which is like northern Ontario if northern Ontario lacked all hope of escape). I find it fascinating reading about these long-dead people that share my blood. And I find it especially fascinating to know that there are at least two murderers in the bunch (one of them used an axe, which is gruesomely awesome only because I am so far removed from it).
Further exploring my family, Erin and I took Abby (8 weeks old yesterday) to see my grandmother.
Joyce Stirling is one of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet. She has been the solid matriarch of my dad’s side of the clan for my entire life, the purveyor of butter tarts so good that I would punt puppy dogs to get my hands on them, and the keeper of family lore (like how she learned to drive when she was 14 and had to take over driving the family bakery’s truck while her brothers were serving in the war). She still insists on trying to clear the dishes from the table, even when she’s having a dizzy spell and shouldn’t be handling the good china, and she still loves-loves-loves babies.
I imagine that when Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro got back to Spain with a ship full of captured American gold he was greeted with the kind of jubilation that Grandma had for me bringing Abby. I could have dragged in a bag full of dismembered body parts (like someone in my family tree might have done) but if I had had Abby in the other arm then Grandma still would have been over-the-roof excited to see me (though she would have had to fight the urge to scrub the blood smears off the floor during the visit).
When my grandma held my daughter, you could see years fall away from her. She talked on and on about how she was the oldest girl in her father’s first family, and when he remarried, she got to take care of all the babies in he had with his second wife. She talked about raising her own four children. She talked about holding me when I was Abby’s age. And she said the same thing over and over again:
“I love babies.”
Well, I love grandmas.