Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Ties That Bind

My maternal great great great grandmother Margaret was born in the Connemara region of western Ireland around 1830. She and her daughter Winifred (named after Margaret’s mother) emigrated to the United States and settled in Rhode Island. Winifred eventually had a daughter whom she named Mary Winifred. Mary Winifred gave birth to my Gramps, whom she named John Mervyn. Gramps married Marion, my Gagee, and they had my Mom, Dorothy.

Winifred to Margaret to Winifred to Mary Winifred to John Mervyn to Dorothy to me - that’s all it takes to think about seven generations over 160 years or so. When you pare it down to seven people, the decades fall away; the miles shrink; the ocean no longer matters; we are simply family. Winifred, my fourth great grandmother, couldn’t imagine me or my life today, but everything she did was in some way for me. Letting go of her widowed daughter Margaret and her granddaughter and namesake Winifred, as they sailed off to America, never to return, had to have been wrenching. But that journey, that leap of faith, was made in search of a better life. That journey was for me and all the other too-distant-to-imagine generations to come.

It was many years ago that we learned one branch of my family tree had sprung from the soil of Connemara. Soon after, Chuck gave me a single decade rosary made from the green Connemara marble. Over the years, I’ve said many a rosary with the green beads clicking through my fingers. I don’t say the rosary the way I once did, but that small rosary is always with me. I carry it in my purse. It connects me to a tradition, to a religion, to a comforting reflex many generations of men and most especially women in my family have turned to in times of stress and thanksgiving. Most importantly, it connects me to my family. Not just Winifred, Margaret and little Winifred who I know were born in Connemara, but to all my kith and kin, their names unknown to me, who came before Winifred. And it even ties me to my distant relatives, unknown to me, who stayed behind in Ireland and made their lives there, down through the same generations.

We are all family, all bound together; all owing debts of gratitude to the generations that came before us; all owing gifts of knowledge and love to the generations traveling with us and coming after us.


Sue said...

Very thought provoking... It's always good to stop and think about our past and where we came from; of the sacrifices that were made, unknowingly, for us. It's funny to think that's what future generations may think of us!

Sue x

PS. Only just getting a chance to catch up on some blog-reading, sorry I've been so quiet...

barbie2be said...

i was baptised in the lutheran church when i was six months old, as were my brothers and sister.

my grandmother was a finatical lutheran. she lived it and breathed it. me, not so much. my brothers are all pretty much agnostic and my sister has recently converted to judaism.

i have always been fascinated by the dogma of the catholic church. i love the symbolism of the rosary. i love the comfort that believers seem to get from their prayers.

when i was in rome back in 2005 shortly before JP,II (my favorite pope, btw) passed away i purchased a beautiful crystal rosary at the vatican museum and was blessed by JP,II in st. peter's square. i also have a vial of holy water from the vatican.

while i am not catholic, i do feel comfort sometimes holding the rosary and just cogitating on things. it calms my mind.

Pink Granite said...

Hi Sue -
I'm so glad you and Jake enjoyed the holidays!
I agree that it's good to take a break from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives to put things in perspective.
And just imagine, one of these days you might be great great great Grandma Sue!
- Lee

Hi B2B -
Thank you for sharing so much about your religious upbringing. When you speak of favorite popes, mine was John XXIII, now known as Blessed Pope John XXIII. What a wonderful experience that must have been to be in Rome and to visit the Vatican!

Rosary beads are akin to the even older worry beads found in different cultures and prayer beads common in many other religious traditions. Also the repetitive nature of the prayers can induce a contemplative or meditative state. I'm glad your rosary brings you calm.

BTW, because of your Lutheran background, you might be interested in the Swedish Lutheran "Pearls of Life" beads.
- Lee

Wendy said...

Hi Lee
A happy 2009 to you and chuck. I have been reading just seeming to have no chime in time. routines are established again now though.
I loved this post.I love how you feel the ties that bind all your 7 generations and beyond. My nana was a winifred as well so I have a great soft spot for that name and the rosary funnily enough as she was catholic too.
How brave they were to go off to a new land never to return to the land of their birth. amazing

Pink Granite said...

Hi Wendy -
Thank you! What a great old name Winifred is. I wonder if back then their nickname might have been Winnie!
Leaving ones family forever, in an era with only letters available as a way to communicate (and some of my people were illiterate) - their courage leaves me slackjawed.
- Lee