Family. The brushstrokes of the stories of our lives.
I think much of mine has been finger painted. Or possibly spray painted.
But it’s rich with color. And really interesting people.
I’ve been in Chicago this past weekend with two of my daughters, my sisters and mom. To celebrate daughter Courtney’s upcoming wedding with a shower.
Pictures and photo albums from the early 1900’s were brought out and perused with laughter, questions and attempts at identification.
I saw, for the first time, a picture of my mom’s folks together. Grandpa died when Mom was three, so there aren’t many pictures of him. He came over from Czechoslovakia and opened a bakery on the south side of Chicago. Then brought Granny and their first two children over.
I heard about my Uncle Frank, a soldier in World War 1 who came home to become a policeman. I saw pictures of him as a young man, grinning, with a gleam in his eye and a gal on each arm. He was killed in the line of duty when, having captured a criminal, the man managed to wrestle his gun from him and shot him with it.
I discovered that, a year after losing her oldest living son, her husband died of a ruptured appendix.
I remember Granny being a stern woman. Her smiles came infrequently. I’ve a better understanding of how hard her life had been.
There’s a picture of Mom and Granny standing in front of their bakery the year Grandpa died. Chicago Lawn Bakery. How difficult it had to have been for both of them. Mom lost her father and has no clear memory of him. Granny lost her husband and partner and had to run the business with the help of her older children. Mom would sit in the corner, often eating cookies, watching and waiting for her family to finish work for the day. They all worked. She wasn’t quite four.
It was as if I’d been given puzzle pieces that I hadn’t known existed. Pictures that made me better understand Mom. And me and my siblings. A chance to appreciate a story that I don’t fully know.
What’s hard is that my lack of knowledge has led me down paths of criticalness. Where I’ve judged those I love unfairly. Based on circumstances and not the whole story. The rest of the story.
Knowing the extent of my story helps me recognize who I am and why I do things the way I do. The work ethic I was raised with–you finish and you finish well. Finding fun in small ways, like Mom teaching us to dance to show tunes. You choose fun.
We all want to know who we are. To know that our stories matter.
God knows me. And values me.
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm 139:16
God knows the details of my life. Always has. The beginning, end and all the middle parts. In Him my story has value. Purpose.
That’s a whole new color I can add to my palette.