family history pragmatic historian

A Culmination of Ancestral Traits

Yesterday, Hubby and I hosted an informal Zoom event with the kids in celebration of a new grandchild soon to be entering the world. (Yay, another grandbaby!)

Our first grandbaby was part of the event, periodically hamming it up for the benefit of those gathered. First Grandchild is very mobile now. There is no rest while keeping track of him. He will find the tiniest fleck of dirt and put it in his mouth. He has been perpetually curious since birth, so interested in what’s going on around him that he can’t always focus on eating or sleeping for fear of missing out. He comes by this trait honestly.

Daughter talked to me not long ago about someone who had asked her what her hobbies were, thinking she would answer along conventional lines, such as watching sports or gardening or knitting, and she answered, “Learning things.” She said to me that she got this from Hubby and me, that our entire family loves to learn new things. Whatever we are interested in at the moment, whether it’s figuring out how to wire the house or refinish furniture or reading tarot or coding or game design or a new fiber arts technique or photography or using a spreadsheet … the list goes on and on and on.

We’ve seen this trait in Hubby’s parents, too. My parents and grandparents displayed it, as well.

When I look at First Grandchild and see that his features are a perfect blend of those of his parents, whose features are a blend of their parents, whose features are a blend of their parents, and so on, as well as observing traits that have been passed along, like the curiousity of First Grandchild and the artistic skill of Eldest Son, I am struck that each individual is a culmination of ancestral traits. We, each of us, are the physical historical record of all of our ancesters before us.

That makes each one of us precious not only for our own individual talents, interests, physical makeup, and quirks, but for the multitudes of relatives we are carrying within us.

The war on Ukraine is weighing heavily on my mind for many reasons, but this is one of them. For each person killed, the world unnecessarily loses the culmination of the ancestral traits that were passed down to them. Soldiers are slaying not only individuals but their ancestors, too. This is particularly egregious when Russian soldiers are targeting civilians, including children.

This has occurred over and over within the history of human beings. When Native Americans or other cultural groups that openly revere their ancestors discuss ancestral trauma, they recognize that war is a major cause of that trauma. It is a trauma that continues to reverberate through surviving generations, often in not very good ways. One of my grandfathers fought in World War II. He was abusive toward his family after that experience. We know now that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and he should have been treated for it. Instead, his behaviour had a psychological effect that has been passed down to my generation.

You’d think we’d learn that war is hell, not only in the here and now but for all those who carry the trauma later. What will it take for us to understand that lesson? What will it take for us to remember the preciousness of each individual and the culmination of ancestors they represent?