A Heritage, Abridged
September 1st, 2010

I am from three shelves of family photo albums whose pages have grown brittle and yellow with time, a set of brass and wrought iron fireplace tools that were handed down and are worn from use, and a red and green leather bound set of the complete works of Charles Dickens.

I am from a single story ranch style home with two fireplaces, a broad deck, and an extra bedroom with blue carpet where my mother watched us in the back yard as she ironed, learning to parallel park between coffee cans on the riding lawnmower, and the sounds of the high school marching band floating through my open windows in early September.

I am from zinnias and marigolds and phlox, giant elm trees that split down the middle during the biggest ice storm of my childhood, and azaleas that flush hot pink for a fraction of a moment each spring.

I am from family vacations filled with silly putty, mint flavored Chapstick, endless games of travel bingo, and stops at every historical marker, Sunday dinners of roast chicken and mashed potatoes and “at least one green vegetable”, and unflappable precision in the matters of grammar and usage.

I am from a cultural polyglot, from operas and rodeos, minor league baseball and Broadway musicals, roadside motels and historic B&B’s.

I am from casseroles and whole wheat bread and after school snacks, bedtimes and phone curfews, and weekly chores for your weekly allowance. 

I am from the belief that life is a banquet table from which I may choose, that you address your friends’ parents as Mr. and Mrs. unless they tell you otherwise, that you don’t have to like it but you have to try it, and that maintaining relationships with family over distance is always hard and always worth it. 

I am from a childhood on horseback, fitted breeches and tall dress boots and banded collars, fringed leather chaps and size 6 7/8 hats, the number 477 pinned to my back and ribbons pinned to my bedroom wall, strong legs and a graceful torso, and greater confidence astride a mare than on solid ground.

I am from Sunday school and the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, a large steel cross that loomed over my head in the sanctuary and whose replica sits on my nightstand, red choir robes with white stoles, and silver trays that were passed down the pews on Communion Sunday.

I am from weekend outings to tiny rural towns, chicken fried steak and cherry cobbler from rusty diners with linoleum tile floors, and the news from Lake Wobegon.

I am from a Catholic prep school with magnificently pitched roofs and a three-story tower with a spiral staircase, pep rallies for Friday night football games, unparalleled teachers, and unreasonable levels of peer competition.

I am from a small private college where everyone knows your hometown and your major, chatty sorority chapter meetings and raucous fraternity parties, and professors who were known to call your dorm room if you overslept for a final.

I am from Bob and Rosemary and Jack and Frances and Jeff and Jan, from hand-stitched quilts and homemade pie pastry, from handwritten letters, hugs and I love yous. 

I am from a family that is not perfect but whom I love, the need to carry them in my heart, and the willingness to try things my own way.

With my entire family arriving shortly for the holiday weekend, I have thoughts of heritage on the brain.  In that vein this post was inspired, with permission, by Lindsey’s poem at A Design So Vast.  As a related aside, I will be taking Friday and Monday off from blogging to spend time with my family, and I will see you back here next Wednesday.  I hope you all have a lovely holiday.

9 Responses to “A Heritage, Abridged”

  1. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Gale, this was absolutely beautiful! In fact, it’s so darn good that I cannot even tell you which part was my favorite. So evocative, so resonant with smells and sounds and love.

  2. Anna Says:

    Fantastic Gale! Have a great time with your family.

  3. Anne@lifeinpencil.com Says:

    Well, seeing as how you’re “from” many of the same things I am, I certainly resonated with this. Super touching, and made me miss everyone all the more. Good thing I’m seeing you soon:)

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    This is absolutely gorgeous. All the specific detail. Rich, rich, rich. You could have gone on and on, and I would’ve happily continued reading.


    Enjoy your family!

  5. Lindsey Says:

    This is marvelous. Gorgeous. I also come from a long line of people who believe in strict adherence to the rules of grammar. Famously, my sister wrote a letter to our local grocery store chain when she was in grade school letting them know that “Ten items or less” was wrong. They changed it. Still one of my favorite stories about her.

  6. Gale Says:

    Lindsey – Thanks for the lovely compliments, the gracious permission to copy your original post, and the inspiration in the first place!

    BLW – Thanks to you also. This is a bit of a departure from my normal posts, but I really enjoyed writing it.

  7. Cathy Says:

    This is such an awesome piece of writing. Very impressive and moving. Makes my thoughts turn….what is my heritage?

  8. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    This says so much about you and makes me want to know more. What a great piece of writing. Your family must be proud to have you as one of them.

  9. Gale Says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. I hope they are proud.