Finding Meaning and Connection in My Family Tree
As I’m sure many people have done since the Covid lockdowns began, I find myself down a rabbit hole of binge-watching some TV every now and then. One show in particular that I can lose many hours to is PBS’ “Finding Your Roots.” It’s a show in which celebrities and other notable people are taken on a journey of discovery through their ancestral paths using a combination of public documents, films, photographs, censuses, and DNA testing. It’s a fascinating look at where these people come from, because the celebrities we know and see all the time are the end result. Finding out who came before them and how their actions and their decisions shaped the generations that came after them is a lot of fun.
Some episodes are poignant and feature stories of terrible traumas. Some stories are funny, and my favorite parts are at the end, when host Louis Gates Jr. reveals to his guest a distant cousin who is also a celebrity or another notable figure, discovered through common chromosomal links in their DNA. Every guest in each episode is struck in some way by the fact that those who came before them played a pivotal role – even if it was a small one – in shaping a life that would come after them.
I think it’s natural when watching a show like that is to think about your own family tree. My parents used to have a sign in their kitchen that said something like “My family tree is full of nuts,” and maybe yours is too. Maybe your family tree is full of painful memories and people you wish belonged not only on some other tree, but in a whole other forest somewhere else! Maybe your family tree is filled with beautiful flowers, people who did the best they could and paved new trails or stood up for what was right; or maybe it is a humble tree that, although it doesn’t display any flashy leaf-color changes or produce exotic fruit, still gives plentiful shade just the same.
As we approach the end of the first year since the Covid lockdowns began and as we slowly ease back into a more normal-looking way of life, maybe take some time to write down your thoughts about it all. (It’s not every day that we get to live through major world events like this one, you know!) Try to write about how you’ve felt about it, and include how you filled your days. What else were your grocery stores out of (besides toilet paper)? What gatherings did you miss? What fears did you have – and were they realized, or did they merely remain fears? Is there any benefit you saw from his time? How have you changed as a person?
Spending some time on these questions can be beneficial for us in the short term, but would also be a wealth of information for those generations who will come after us. How amazing would it be if generations from now, a great-, great-, great-, great-grandson or great-granddaughter learned about the Covid-19 pandemic and read what you had to say about it? How awesome would it be for them to sit back in a chair in amazement that they were related to you? I’m sure they would be amazed, because we’re living in quite amazing times. And you are very much an amazing person, well worth knowing about.
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.