We are imprinted by many things in this life, as surely as a painter’s brushstrokes leave intentional images on a canvas. We Southerners are the patchwork quilt of Granddaddy’s ties; the biscuits, butterbeans, fried chicken, and sweet iced tea of a family dinner; the random stuff collected in the junk room upstairs. We may carry the gift of a light heart from one grandmother and the tinge of melancholy from another. Our parents joined together not just two people in love but also two families with their own gardens, cupboards, books, beliefs, joys, and tragedies. Each of us takes the first breath of life as a concoction of accumulated traits from dark hair and brown eyes to a smiling tilt of the head, and yet all of that is still but a piece of clay changing day by day through each moment in a lifetime until we, acting/reacting, laughing/crying, running/stumbling, challenging or accepting – become ourselves, a work in progress.
Our stories are so much more than just the 75 or so years we live on this planet. We reach back in time to the parents of a young woman crossing the sea from England to Virginia with her husband in 1660, or a family in Georgia losing a treasured son in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864 to yet another man in 1880 preaching an energetic sermon on the grounds of a white clapboard church in North Carolina – and then forward to the birth of a son whose eyes and hair are just like Daddy’s, to the time when a granddaughter might thumb through family photos or read an old letter until perhaps a great-grandchild visits for Christmas for the first time. On and on, back and forth through time, the words that become our own family stories gather together, meet and greet, exchange contact information, and become a one-of-a-kind legacy.