Television shows, commercials and yes, even my own blog posts often tout the endearing “fact” that a certain trait or characteristic was certainly passed down the line from a specific someone or group of someones. Interesting. Fun. Whimsical. Perhaps just plain Nostalgic and warming to feel so due, so connected and bequeathed. But maybe that isn’t so true as we readily like to accept. I’ve looked at great figures in our history who were adopted and never influenced by their bloodline past birth.
Barons of industry, philanthropists, great minds, serial killers, and orphans who became Saints are all equally represented. Even sibling sets have such vastly different personalities and quirks. They may share many habits and traits, but all are separate people with their own paths to follow or fall from.
Several years ago, the Mom crew had one of those experiential family bonding weekends where we roughed it in the mountains of North Carolina for a weekend (OK, only one night sleeping outside in a shelter, the other two nights I was holed-up in a very posh hotel–close enough). One of the exercises we did together as a family was to scurry around the camp site and collect up bits of forest matter to create a family crest on” a dirt pad we had shaped onto the mossy black soil patches where sun rarely touched through the tall pines.”
We were assigned to each come back to our spot with hands full of assorted objects, and to then assemble the stuff into four meaningful quadrants divided by twigs representing us as a family unified in a collective tableau of organic discards. I wish I still had the photo secretly snapped with my smuggled in Blackberry. Together we were to wage a lively debate over whose treasures of nature we’d use on the little flat mound and what exactly they represented. The instructor gave us only a short time to do the project. She said she didn’t want us to “over think” what we created. We had to work fast and shoot from the hip to get it done in time to explain what we had chosen and why.
A handful of the other families there were clearly more “in touch” with mindfulness and “being in the moment” than us. Fully unified in their task, they were sopping up the symbolism. On the other hand, I was enjoying the dynamics of the family next to us who pretty much hadn’t spoken to each other all weekend. Until this assignment began; then everyone of them piped up. I especially liked the part where they erupted in a nasty tussle over whether to use tree bark or leaves to outline their creation.
We were in good shape, our outdoorsy daughter was cheerfully in her element as she directed Dad and me toward places to find “the good stuff.”
I’ll admit I wasn’t helpful on the hunt; everything looked like poison ivy to me. Besides, I was wild eyed watching for snakes, bears and woodland spiders who were large enough to carry off pets and Appalachian children.
I think I got the point of the whole thing in retrospect. Things became clearer to me back at home sipping a latte, seated on my finely upholstered raw silk sofa, in the sun-room, overlooking the patio and pool. That weekend experience started looking less awful and more fascinating. Especially with some distance between me and that horrifying time when I peed in the woods while a snarky toad sat glaring at me; things were clearer from the sofa. I’m sure many of the other families felt moved to a deeper understanding of their own tribal dynamics. At the time, Husband and I were just feeling lucky to be released back to our hotel. For me, the amazing part happened back here in my Mom-zone. I saw that there is really no ancestral precedent for our outdoor adventure loving daughter. Yes, I’m sure she is ours, I was there and quite lucid when she was born.
She has my crooked pinky fingers and my freakishly long big toes (left one more so than the right).
But even with my country-farm girl upbringing, and my husband’s years of summer camp for boys–neither of us has the “nature bug” that our campy, earth-girl does. Her sister would rather be fire-roasted on a spit than to suffer sleeping outdoors. Her burly, football playing, 6’7″ little brother prefers his pillow top mattress and a hot tub over a canopy of stars any time.
Sure, there are lots of our Ancestors who lived without plumbing, or traveled cross country on a river float. But they were always on their way toward something better. I have not found a single instance of someone who WANTED to live “au’natural.” So I’m thinking that in the here and now, somehow, by some hiccup in the cosmos, I am raising a willing hiker, outdoor loving, ground sleeping, twig eating, Hipster. A bonafide “first” for our family tree.
Together, Husband and I lay claim to a wide variety of vocations, characters, oddballs and nuts, but none who are close to being as woodland obsessed as our otherwise prissy middle daughter. We must then, give her the full and due credit of being the original Granola Knapsack-er in our line! Hurrah for a variant gene!
A refreshing bit of difference at last.
Oh, I know you’re burning to know what we ended up placing on our own little dirt crest. So, I’ll tell you what filled each of the four quadrants out in the woods: For the obvious reasons, we outlined ours with acorns/nuts. We put Oak leaves in the first quadrant to represent our strength as a family. A cross braided from river grass filled one area to represent our faith. In the 3rd section, we piled up moss and shaped a heart for the love between us, and on the last one we placed a scattering of small round pebbles–representing animal poo–because it was funny, and poo happens to us all of the time.
What about your family? Do you have anyone who has followed their own unprecedented path in life? Any trailblazers? Entrepreneurs? Anyone way out there standing on their own perfect limb?
How would you create a family crest of your own? Don’t over-think it, but really–
Maybe someone should write that down…