I wrote a post awhile back touching on some of my Southern roots. I recently found out just how deep those ties are. My mother has been going through old pictures since my grandmother died. The last time I was over at her house, I looked through them, asking her who each of them were.
I picked up a hand-drawn portrait of an intense thin young man. Both his hair & eyes were dark; his suit was simple, yet respectable. “Oh,” my mom said, “That’s your great-grandmother’s brother, your uncle. He killed himself when he was rejected by the military & couldn’t serve.”
I didn’t know this story, so my mom told me the details, saying that he had hung himself in a barn. “Y’know, the one on your cousin’s property? Or, at least it was still there a few years ago.” Turns out, the land my grandmother & her cousin have lived on has been in my family for a few generations.
It’s one of those things I vaguely know or should have known, but the fact didn’t click until now. Whenever I’d be driving in that part of the county, I’d see road signs for streets or mailboxes with my family’s name on it. I’d taken it for granted that they were somehow connected to me.
It’s hard to describe just how exactly this story changed me, but it did. I’m still struggling to put it into words. My uncle is connected to the land he died on. Which is one more tie between myself & my motherland. Those oft-repeated quotes about the living past, the ones we Southerners learn as a catechism, suddenly rang true.