Monday, March 13, 2006

Family Traditions

It is interesting how religion plays a role in family traditions. Over the weekend, ol’ Myrt traveled again to Phoenix, this time to attend the baptism of my grandson. In our church this is done when the child is 8 years of age. The occasion was much like I remember when one of my friends took her first communion at her church. Both events provide occasion for the joyful gathering of extended family at home after the service.

During this trip, we traveled by car through some long, often deserted stretches of the road which became increasingly difficult to navigate as the late winter snowfall increased. How thankful we were for a comfortable mode of transportation, in sharp contrast with what our pioneer ancestors experienced in settling here and there among these same mountain passes and alluvial plains.

Can you imagine taking an 800-1200 mile trip beyond civilization in a covered wagon at the unpredictable mercy of Mother Nature? Grandma Warnick and I would have huddled in the back with quilts frosted by snow that managed to leak through the flap of the wagon’s thin canvas. With the temperature at 17 degrees (according to our car’s on-board navigation system) we experienced gusts of wind that pushed our car to the edge of the road. Mere couvered wagons surely would have toppled over, pushing us to the breaking point, like the fated Donner party. Driving the horses and oxen, Grandpa would not have been able to tolerate the cold as his whiskers would become more frozen with every halting breath.

We passed two ancestral homes, one a humble single-story adobe brick with a small window on each side of the door just like five or six others huddled in the shadows of the mountains. The second home, a fancy two-story with a wide front porch was found in the next town, situated like others, one to each to block in the township. In our minds we removed all traces of modern civilization, and realized that 150 years ago, individuals in these tiny settlements must have been very interdependent during such difficult winter storms. One couldn’t just bop on down to the local Safeway or Home Depot to restock necessities to see you through ‘till after the spring thaw.

It was a little challenging for the driver of our car to pass from one place to the next in near white-out conditions. Yet our travel was a thousand times easier than negotiating the path on foot to the next farm in the hopes of retrieving an ember from the neighbor’s fire to rekindle the home fire that should have been maintained overnight.

Our ancestors got along with a dirt floor and the fire that sustained life and warmed the evening’s cornmeal mush.

We got along in a Toyota Camry with heated leather seats, a cell phone and plastic to pay for the provisions to carry us forward.

Religion may have motivated my ancestors to leave England and Germany in favor of Leiden, the American colonies or the uncharted west. But the desire to live life and maintain family traditions according to the dictates of one’s own conscience is a truth valued by all.

Ol’ Myrt is thankful she could take this journey to support her young grandson in 2006 not 1906, 1806 or 1706.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy

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