I’ve just come back from a family reunion — the descendants of those pioneers I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks. We’re all older now. The cousins I knew as kids chasing through the hay fields are all grown up. Some are grandparents themselves. The old farmhouse has been renovated with a modern kitchen and new wiring, the barns expanded and modernized. Tractors and harvesters have taken the place of draft horses and hired men. What remains is the land and our story.
The fields, cleared by my grandfather yield corn and grains and hay, just as before. Cattle and babies live off its bounty. The valley traps the heat, the hills on either side offer a cool respite. I sit under a tent on Sunday morning and listen to a preacher talk about God and gardening while my eyes rest on the old homestead. It’s a wonderful moment of connection. I feel the pioneers smiling.
But it’s more than the place that draws us together, it is the stories. Cousins I hadn’t seen for decades gathered on the verandah and we talked about playing hide and seek in the big house. (It’s the only house I’ve ever known with both a front staircase and a back staircase, plus a couple of interconnecting rooms. Perfect for restless children!) Members of the succeeding generations added their stories, weaving their memories into the fabric of the family. That pioneer lady, with her eyes and heart set firmly on family, faith and farm, lives on in all of us. We each add another chapter, or maybe only a paragraph, but together we build the story of who we are, where we came from and what we stand for.
I’m sometimes annoyed at businesses or sports organizations that run advertisements that tell a story to align themselves with the nation or with a particular value. I keep thinking, “it’s only a game,” or “it’s only fast-food” but those ads remind us all of the importance of story and the importance of roots.
Some people dismiss fiction as fluff, preferring documentaries or hard news. Yet, story is who we are. It roots us in place and time, it encompasses us as a family or a nation or a world. A genealogy chart may show our blood lines, but it’s story that makes us human.
Here’s to my pioneer ancestors, here’s to family, and here’s to the storytellers among us, wherever you are.