When I Grow Up

My son will be 13 on Sunday. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about being the mother of a teenager, especially one who’s only a few short months away from looking down on me, quite literally. He’s a good kid, though, and very bright (and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother) with a wide range of interests running from spacecraft engineering to Ancient Rome to a whole other host of subjects I can barely keep up with.

This interest in everything reminds me a bit of myself when I was his age. Growing up, I dreamed of being a writer, a translator in the diplomatic corps, a fashion designer, a landscape architect, an astrophysicist (specializing in planet-hunting, of course), an archaeologist (or possibly an archaeolinguist), a botanist, a ghost hunter, the lead singer in an all-girl band, and Lord only knows what else.

The most enduring love, however, was family history. Both of my grandmothers fostered this natural interest by telling old family stories, sharing photo albums, and encouraging me to spend time chasing our family’s roots. My father’s mother, Nanny, asked me to pick up where she had left off, giving me correspondence containing genealogical details and a hand-written tree tracing her father’s line to his grandfather, John Martin, who was an Irish immigrant. The time spent listening to the stories my mother’s mother, MawMaw, related about her family are some of my favorite memories. How can one not be compelled to find the “Dutch” grandfather whose “Cherokee” wife was so mean to him that she refused to cook his meals?

Over the years, I’ve dabbled at many things and held a wide variety of jobs, but my struggle to document the past through the lives of the individuals who lived it is one constant that’s seen me through many of life’s most trying moments. I never dreamed when I was a little girl that I would grow up to work with the long-forgotten dead, that genealogy would become my career, nor could I ever have foreseen how thoroughly satisfying such work truly is. Every day, I am thankful I’ve finally found a place to call my own. I no longer wonder what I’ll be when I grow up; the path I follow shines brightly beneath my feet, lined by all the people who came before.

Happy birthday, my precious child. I hope you find the same fulfillment along your chosen path.

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