Our eldest daughter has taken an interest in researching our family's genealogy. I thought it was a nice idea, but I didn't share her enthusiasm. I didn't really see the relevance or meaning in tracing our family line and finding out the names of relatives I have never met. But that all changed during our trip to northern Michigan a few weeks ago. I mentioned my daughter's new hobby to my dad, and he pulled out a binder that some of our relatives put together, called "Our Family Roots."
We spent some time skimming the pages, and as I read through the lists of names and learned some of my family's history, I became intrigued. The first page reads, "Dedicated to the Union of John David Stephens and Blanche Belle Tower." They were my great-grandparents, and both of their ancestry lines have been traced back to the 17th century. Antoni Cramer, born in Germany in 1650, migrated to New York around 1710, about the same time as Johann Friederich Bellinger, also German-born. Page after page is filled with names and records of births, baptisms, marriages and deaths of people I descended from. And then, toward the end of the book, I found my name, my birthdate, the date of my wedding and the name of my husband.
One of our deepest desires is to belong. Some of our life experiences cause us to feel unsure of where we fit in, where our place is and leave us asking the question, "Where do I belong?" I think family is the place where that question is meant to be answered.
We had our second annual talent show while in Michigan this year, and as I watched my dad perform his quirky stand-up comedian act, talking in an accent that he made up, I realized that I get some of my quirky creativity from him. I'm compassionate like my mom. My sister, Kari, and I laugh alike. My daughters share uncanny similarities with some of their cousins, and my niece, Rachel, and I both have a serious aversion to feet. And during this trip we discovered that the members of our extended family unanimously agree that S'mores made with Nutella are ridiculously better than traditional S'mores.
Kari and her husband have adopted two boys, Jonathon David and Javier. And like a beautiful work of tapestry they have become woven into our family. It has been a process that has required patience and time. They bring characteristics from their birth families, and they are inheriting others from our family. And most importantly, I think they are finding that they, too, belong.
Sometimes in the mundane, ordinary, seemingly meaningless moments in our days we lose sight of the big picture. While we are wiping crumbs off counters, changing diapers, driving kids to soccer practice and imparting bits of wisdom, we forget that we are building something. We are blazing a path and building a legacy. Years from now our children's names and their children's names will be written on pages in family history books. Bonds formed by blood, marriage, adoption and preserved even through divorce and death -- families passing on faith and values, heritage and traditions, creating a place to belong.
• Becky Baudouin is a freelance writer and speaker. She lives in the Northwest suburbs with her husband, Bernie, and their three daughters.