Today my friend Katie Brick and I traded several emails, trying to figure out if we share a set of great great great great grandparents. She and I met years ago through a Fast Company group in Chicago. Even if we’re not related, it seems certain that our ancestors partied together on the outskirts of Detroit, circa 1850. What I emailed her today was a bit of data from a family history a great aunt of mine did in 1945. Katie’s still checking the story on her side for overlaps.
The other reason this is exciting now is that I spent a good chunk of last week helping my Dad format and publish 200 pages of his favorite stories. Some of these things I’d never heard him tell and might never have heard him tell, about growing up, making choices, doing work, learning through life. Other things that the next generation will certainly hear me tell, but be able to read it in my Dad’s own words, as well. The details are delicious, but also the patterns. In the reading, I can see the patterns of who he is and how he thinks about the world… and then of course i can see them in myself, as well. What a treasure.
I remember with a strange clarity, one day in the fourth grade, when a new kid joined our class. I remember thinking how lucky I was to have been going to this school from the beginning, to have a history with the school and my classmates. These books give me some of that same gratitude and satisfaction and confidence, a history, a lineage, back to some of my great great great greats. As so much of the world churns and falls away, I can’t begin to imagine what it might be like decades from now, for the children of my newborn nephew and year-old niece to scan this sort of a record for new baby names and old family patterns.
I think what is most fascinating for me in all of these stories is the simultaneous realities: I, Michael Herman, could not have been planned, especially by those great-great-greats… and yet, the patterns that I carry are not random or accidental, they are (I am, we all are) generations-old mind and practice.