Without truly knowing all the origins of my genealogy, I am certain that the blood of many cultures runs through my veins. That is what makes me American. I am a self-contained mixture, a melting pot of immigrants and Natives blended during our country’s short life.
My father was in the military and I was born in Stuttgart, Germany. We returned to my grandparent’s home in Tennessee when I was a toddler. My first recollections of life are from a much simpler place in time.
Farm life shaped many of the characteristics that I have carried through life. Even at the age of three there was work to do. Everyone contributed to the home, safety and care of the family. In the beginning I worked with the women in the garden and kitchen. Sometimes my only job was to sit on the washing machine while it was spinning so it would not bounce off the back porch.
I learned as I watched my grandfather do his daily routine of tending to the animals in the barn, moving cattle from one pasture to another. He had fields, crops, woods, lakes and many animals during those years. Both of my grandparents influenced a strong family and work ethic that I use every day of my life.
I learned that work is hard, but fruitful. My family taught me the joy of many simple things in life. Even though at the time there were many new electronics emerging, we sat around on the porch to listen to stories about our heritage, religion and some good tall tales-or listened to radio and music. My grandfather was a preacher and built a church right down the road from the house so farmers in the area could meet and worship.
Most people have work to survive. Life can be wonderful and it can be just as cruel. Principles that I learned as a farm sprout follow me to this day. They are innate. Family, in any form, is one of the only truths in life you can count on. Though I protest religious dogma, faith and hope are a necessity.
Another part of me is rebellious, always asking questions folks do want asked. I have the spirit of a wanderer and am not afraid to venture into the unknown, unexpected or the “unacceptable.” My mother often referred to me as a gypsy. When asked who was the black sheep of the family, my two brothers lovingly point to me.
“Unacceptable,” I use loosely. What is unacceptable to one person can be a strong passion for another. This has roots in many things, including culture, family upbringing, life experiences and circumstance.
All of the traits, even those that I consider weak and dangerous, are the threads that make up the elaborate tapestry of me. I cling to these threads, for without them, my tapestry would unravel.
Woven together, the threads of my tapestry struggle against each other, but hold together as a single piece. Though many of them plague me, I learned to embrace the intimate diversity of myself.
That constant struggle is the journey of life. Learning to hold to these qualities takes me a step closer to accepting the diversity of the world around us.