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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scraps of Family History

A pile of books about family history scrapbooking waits patiently on my desk. I've become obsessed with creating a written and photographic record for my descendants.

What a celebration there would be if I discovered a diary written by my great-great grandmother! Or a photo album compiled by a long lost great-aunt. Heck, I'd be happy to see brief notes my ancestors had written to one another, wouldn't you?

The books I'm reading encourage me to start by preserving one story, one event, or one photo and the tale it tells. How excited I would be if any one of my ancestors had done this for me!

Some stories are in the here and now; the first big snow of 2010 with pictures taken while running from falling tree branches. Others are in the past; tales of a much beloved pet who now resides in cat heaven. The one I'll share today spans the past, the present and possibly the future.

When I was a kid we had a 20 foot flagpole in our front yard. My dad was uncompromising about the care of the flag that flew from sun up to sundown everyday. In the morning, one of my sisters or I would hold one end of the flag while Daddy hooked it to the cord and raised it by a pulley. In the evenings we would lower the flag and fold it width-wise twice. Then starting at the striped end, we made a triangle fold 13 times, one for each colony.

My parents divorced and my mother had the flagpole removed. Folding the flag was relegated to Girl Scouts and parades, until last month when my dad was laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Uniformed volunteers folded the flag that had been draped over Daddy's casket. With a 'thank you' for the service my father gave his country, they placed the flag in my stepmother's hands. Pastor said a few more words and the crowd started to thin. In a moment of immeasurable generosity, my stepmom turned to me and said, "You should have this." Then she handed me the flag. And returned the memory of my dad holding his end as we moved closer to each other with every fold.

Today the framed flag resides next to a photo of more than a hundred uniformed men, one of whom is my husband's late father. The stories of our veteran dads have merged and will be told to our grandchildren as one. The future will tell which of them will take ownership of the treasures and the stories. Perhaps the first to erect a flagpole in their front yard.


Nancy said...

What a tender memory. It's good that you're recording these things so that your descendants won't be thinking the same thing you do - wishing you/they had something written by an ancestor.

Darlene said...

immeasurable generosity it was! God bless your stepmom.

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