Uncovering a Sense of My Local Identity

I often feel like I carry a cocktail of my family’s histories deep within my bones, pulsing through my blood and veins.

Tender naivety.
Raging temper.
Unusual humour.
Unshakeable loyalty.

It can be difficult to ask questions about the place you’re from, in the place you’re from. It’s dangerous. You might learn things you never wanted to know… without the luxury of being able to step entirely out of the space and reframe the answers, adjust to your liking. Perhaps by telling an unrelated stranger your preferred version, you could alter the trajectory of the narrative just enough to please you, or elicit some kind of catharsis.

But I live here. If I learn something I wish I hadn’t, how will I escape from it?

It’s a risk I lean into; chasing the truth about myself. What kind of Mennonites were my parents? My grandparents? My great-grandparents? How do their stories connect to the history of this area, the streets I walk, the gravel roads I drive? Am I even capable of finding this stuff out at this point?

A fear has grown in me: what if the person I’m now hanging my hope upon, one of my last chances to connect to the past, is not interested?

I took the risk. I asked anyway.

And I’ve been given my most favourite gift of all: time. Time with my aunt, time with family documents and photographs.

Seeing life through the lens of my young grandparents has been incredible.

I’ve been able to look back in time and witness moments of love. Loss. Betrayal. Hope. Strength. Resilience. Heartbreak. Joy. Contentment. A fleeting glimpse into brief moments of their lives I’d never seen before.

I feel like if they’d read what I’m writing here, they’d say, “What? It’s just life. Nothing extraordinary.”

But that’s exactly it. It’s pieces of their lives, and it is extraordinary.

To me, anyway. And I’m so grateful.


Here are some related posts:

Turn Turn Turn 

My 5G-Grandmother’s Gravestone Was Discovered in Ukraine

Encounter at Neuanlage

Looking For My Grandmother in “Adventures of a Mennonite”

Jacob Barkman: Born in Prussia, Buried in Manitoba