Most kids love to go to the zoo, and it is a special treat if they have to go to some other town to go, such as visiting relatives. I don’t recall going to the zoo as a kid, but I’m sure we must have. I remember taking my girls to the zoo in Denver, and they loved it. These days the zoo usually even includes the aquatic area. You can go and spend the whole day there.
Back when my Aunt Laura was a little girl, the zoo was very different than it is now, but the draw was the same. When a child can find themselves so close to wild animals, it is as much a rush as it is for adults. For Aunt Laura, this was a red letter day. I think it was for my grandmother as well, because she wanted pictures to remember the event. I have to wonder what a zoo looked like back then…was it primitive, with just fenced areas around the animals’ habitats, or was that just what the particular area they were at when the picture was taken. My guess is that no matter what it looked like, my Aunt Laura was beside herself with excitement to be going. I know that is how I would have felt at her age. I can imagine how wonderful the day was for a little girl. Strolling along in the sunshine with her mom, looking at all the different animals. It must have been almost like a class field trip for her, except that she was not in school.
These days, the zoo is pretty much a common thing. Most people have been to one at some time in their lives. But back then, not so much. For my Aunt Laura, it was a day she would always remember, and I think it felt that way for her mother too. It appears to have been a ladies day out with family, and that probably made it even more special. Nevertheless, the most special thing to any kid is going to be the animals. There is always time to be excited about being with relatives, after all. But the Zoo…well, that’s the coolest thing ever!!
This picture of my cousin Shirley, was taken in the 70’s. The focus isn’t great, but you can easily see how pretty Shirley is. This picture has stayed in my memory files for many years. It was taken at my parents’ house in about 1979 or so. I’m not sure why this picture has stayed in my memory, but a few months ago, I saw a picture that had been in a album of my dad’s, and this picture immediately came to mind. I was amazed at how much Shirley looked like this ancestor…whoever she was. I do know that she is from my dad’s side of the family, so she is related to Shirley, as well as my sisters and me. That would explain the similarity between the two faces.
I was, nevertheless quite surprised at the similarity between these two relatives. I guess we usually are when someone looks so much like someone else, and that someone could be 100 years older or more. It’s like time doesn’t mean anything, and relative closeness doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about DNA and bloodlines. That’s what makes us the people we are…or at least, the people we look like. To me, that is so amazing. How could things like DNA, which is too small to even be seen, affect the people we will become, in such a big way? Even though Scientists now know about DNA, they still don’t know exactly how it works, because there are lots of relatives in our family, and yet, not all the people in our family look alike.
I guess that is something we will never fully understand in this lifetime, but we do know that DNA can be used to trace our ancestors…with complete accuracy. That is something we can’t do perfectly…even with the wide range of resources we have these days…at least not without the help of DNA. Nevertheless, we have pictures, and memories, and records that have been kept…and with those we can go quite a long way toward knowing about our ancestors. The rest will have to wait.
Today is Shirley’s birthday. I am glad that the Internet and Facebook, two other resources we have now, have reconnected our lives. You are so important us. We were out of touch for too long. DNA and bloodlines have made us family…who we are has made us friends. Happy birthday Shirley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
We all have people in our past who ultimately shaped who we are today. Yes, our parents raised us and shaped much of the person we are, but where did their values come from. It was their parents, of course. When I look back on who my grandparents were, and who Bob’s grandparents were, I can see traits in them and in their personalities that reflect on our parents, which reflects on us, and even some features and personality traits that have passed on to us. Sometimes the traits we have may have come from a grandparent who is even a step-grandparent, but who meant a lot to us, and so we adopted some of their traits.
Part of who we are comes from the way we are raised or the world around us, but some things are not affected by those things. Those are the parts that come to us from our heritage…our ancestors. Bob and his dad both look a lot like his grandfather, his dad’s dad. That became very apparent to me when we met him for the first time. Bob’s dad had been estranged from his dad for a long time, and only reunited a short time prior to his death. During that time we attended a family reunion, and in the pictures, the resemblance was amazing.
I think about my own grandparents. One set I knew, one set I didn’t, and yet it is the set I didn’t know, that I most take after. I am very much like my Aunt Ruth…my dad’s sister, and she seems to be much like her mother, my grandmother. It makes me wonder what my grandmother was like. Did she laugh like I do, and like my aunt did. I wish I could have known her, but she died when I was six months old. I’m told that she was an amazing woman…very strong and capable, and yet a tiny woman…as her wedding dress would tell me.
My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was gone before I was born, and yet I think that we are a bit alike in that he was an adventurer…always looking for something new…just around the next corner. My dad was a lot like that too. He liked seeing new places…exploring new things. I’m sure that was why the railroad was always of interest to my grandfather.
I think maybe some of my personality traits came from my mom’s dad. He was a gentle man with a soft heart. He was very soft spoken, a trait I wish I had received, but I’m not so sure I did. He was kind and compassionate, as was my grandmother…my mom’s mom. They really never met a stranger. And they helped many a person in need. While their family was large, and times were tough, they often had an extra mouth or two at the table in the evening, and they would never have turned anyone away.
Our grandparents passed much of themselves on to our parents, who passed it on to us. The people we have become is in a big way related to the relatives from our past. Whether we know it or not, often, we follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.