I just finished reading the book Roots by Alex Haley last night. If you’ve never read Roots, you should. It is a book that chronicles one family’s story of hardship and endurance that begins in a village in Africa in 1750 and ends at a funeral in Arkansas roughly two centuries later. I listened to the audiobook version and the last hour and a half was the author describing how his grandmother would tell the story of their family passed down to them from their ancestors, starting with Haley’s 7th great-grandfather who they referred to as “the African”. Based on just a few clues, Haley was able to piece together who “the African” was, where he came from, when he was born, and who his descendants were. It gave me goosebumps just listening to it.
Today I remembered a similar situation in my life. When I was six years old, my mom, who homeschooled me and my three sisters, taught a class to my older sisters called “Write Your Roots.”
As part of the class, each of my sisters had to write a book on family history. Not to be left out, my mom helped me compose my own accounting of my family history, at least what I could remember of it. The book was almost of the same quality as Alex Haley’s Roots. If I remember right, I would tell my mom the story and she would write it down for me. She was my personal scribe, really.
Well, I found the book, professionally printed and bound, of course.
And, lest a view of the cover leave you wondering if we were anything less than professional, it was even copyrighted.
In it are eight stories passed down from generation to generation. Well, close. They were eight occurrences in my life that, to a six-year-old, seemed pretty important at the time.
The first story requires a little background. Up until the time I was four years old, we lived in a house in a neighborhood in the ‘burbs. But in October of 2004, we moved out of that house planning to move to 120ish acres of land out in the country. Like the house that we had just moved out of, my dad was building our new house also. We started with our shop. Sometimes it gets called a barn, sometimes a garage. (Its always Dad calling it the wrong thing, we’ve tried to tell him how important it is to distinguish between the barn, the garage, and the shop. After all when he says, “Go get my red handled bolt cutters from the garage,” and you spend 10 minutes in the garage looked for “red handled…what did he say they were? Oh yeah, bolt cutters, hmm…what does a bolt cutter look like?” and come back empty handed only to discover that he meant the shop, you begin to realize the importance of calling it like it is. A shop is a shop.) So we started with the shop, planning to make it livable while we finished the new house.
Dad and Papa working on the shop.
Papa's parents making sure everything's running smoothly.
But when we moved out of our old house, the shop wasn’t quite ready yet. So we ended up living with my dad’s parents, Nana and Papa, for eight weeks before moving into the shop.
Ok, here is the transcript of my six-year-old version of that Christmas, called “The Laundry Drop-off”.
“Dennis and his family had recently moved from their home. Their shop wasn’t quite yet finished due to immense amounts of rain and, therefore mud, that year.
This is about the time you call it a day.
As a result, Nana and Papa kindly offered to let the six-member family come live with them in the interim. Dennis, Kim, and the girls were so grateful to have a nice, fun place to stay while they built their shop.
While they stayed there, Nana worked very hard to keep them comfortable. She cooked meals each day for them, helped transport the girls to various activities, cleaned house, helped teach the girls while Kim ran errands, and did their laundry on many occasions. In fact, it was a standing joke around there that if you took a shower and threw your dirty clothes on the floor, they would be laundered and neatly folded on the kitchen table when you got out!
On December 23, 2004 the young family finally moved into their shop. Since it was Christmas time, the family wanted to repay Nana and Papa’s kindness with a thoughtful Christmas gift. Dennis, Kim, and the girls came up with a wonderful idea – they would prepare two boxes for laundry. One would be for dirty laundry, which was to be tied near Nana’s gate and labeled “Laundry Drop-off.” The other would be at Dennis and Kim’s gate, labeled “Clean Laundry.” It was a fantastic idea! After all, Nana said she loved doing laundry for them and would miss them terribly after their eight week stay at her home! It seemed like the perfect solution.”
Surveying our accomplishment.
My three sisters, two cousins, and I with Nana and Papa at Christmas that year.
I know, I know, you’re wondering why I’ve waited this long to get published.