I am writing this from thousands of miles in the air as we return to our home in London from a two week visit to see family in the United States. Our son, who is now two years old, has finally fallen asleep after kicking and crying in exhaustion. Throughout the first part of the flight I smiled at the others seated around us. Now, I refuse to make eye contact with them out of fear.
We make the long, tiring and costly journey twice a year because we love family and they are important to us. And like anything you place importance upon, you make time for it. Or at least, do your best to find some time to invest. You are willing to brave the journey of sitting in a flying metal tube with a toddler for hours on end.
Time with family is a beautiful mess for us. The visits are meaningful but also a blur from the running around of trying to see everyone. This summer we spent the night in four different homes and by some miracle, we were able to have some relaxing moments within the chaos. There were the usual annoyances that family has with one another, as well as, a few familial issues that came up out of unmet expectations. However, it was a good trip home and overall well worth the effort.
On one particularly gorgeous summer evening, I felt the magic of time slowing just a bit. The moon was exceptionally clear that night and it had a beautiful halo surrounding it. We admired the glow from the deck of my family's lake home. We gazed at the sparkling waters that shone gloriously in the light of the moon. I was happy there and grateful for these brief moments when I am back home.
We shared stories of family including some who had since passed from this earth. I talked about our recent trip to Stockholm and how I found it to be even more interesting than I thought. "Many of the people looked like relatives." I said, "They looked like you and me." It was fascinating to stare at the faces of strangers in Sweden and to see a familial resemblance to those I was sitting with that evening. I told my family that I was a bit surprised by how meaningful I found the visit to Sweden to be. I was fascinated thinking of my distant relatives who spent their lives there. I felt pride when I was spoken to in Swedish by those who mistook me as local. I laughed when I drank coffee and found out that Sweden is near the top of the list for countries that consume the most coffee per capita. It makes some sense now why some of our friends on the lake who are of Swedish heritage offer us multiple cups of coffee in the middle of the summer heat. These feelings and experiences had me think about my ancestry in a deeper way. I had not realized I would have felt so strongly about this but when I think about my own son and how I want him to know of not only his Grandparents, but also his Great Grandparents whom I loved, I can see the importance of knowing family heritage. It can explain a lot and the feeling of being a bit more anchored can result.
As someone who moves around a lot, I feel as though I am beginning to understand the importance of roots in a new way. Being American and living in England, a land with great roots and deep traditions, I am seeing value in knowing ancestry. I realize that as someone who is living life abroad, it may seem a bit hypocritical to talk about the importance of family when I have chosen to live so far from mine. It is on some level and I guess it should be of no surprise. When in life are we ever truly free of being a bit of a hypocrite? That said, I have found to appreciate family in a new way as I learn about those who came before me. My ancestors traveled to a distance land for a new life. My curiosity for their journey has grown and I want to know more about who they were. I wish I could go back to when my Grandparents were alive so that I could have learned more from them. There was such wisdom and knowledge that could have been gained.
Ancestry travel is a growing trend and I recently spoke with a company that will spent many months tracking down your ancestral roots before helping to plan a journey to your home country to visit where your great grandparents or other family members came from. They told me that they will even work with my clients to try to set up meetings with distant relatives in their homes. It would be an honor to provide my clients with such a grand purpose to their travels.
Whether through a more formal ancestry investigation with professionals, or simply doing a bit of family research on your own, I think it is a worthwhile path. Taking the trip to the country or towns in which your great grandparents came from, if different from your own, is a fascinating journey and well worth it. The journey home often is.