In high school, History was not appealing to me. Why did we have to memorize names, dates and events from the past, when it didn’t seem to have anything to do with me or the present? At that age, no one helped me understand the story in history. I look back to college, and one particular history professor, with such gratitude because not only did he help me learn how to learn, but he gave me a love for history and the story of us. That one semester I learned more about my interests, my style of learning and how much I could accomplish than I ever had before. It just so happens that my older sister took that class with me, but I’m positive her experience was completely different, and she may not even remember the class. It’s interesting the things that strike a chord in one person and aren’t even heard by another. Not only was that class enlightening for me, it was an enormous challenge. By the end of the class, I was so much richer for the experience.
My main point of telling you this is I started to find history fascinating and inspirational, which changed the course of my work, possibly my life. I’ve taken American and World History courses, many art history courses, I read historical fiction, and I’ve recently become interested in genealogy. One fascinating thought is genetic memory. Several years ago, I came across the idea in a Susanna Kearsley book, which took it into fantasy, but the core idea stuck with me. We inherit physical and biological traits from our ancestors, so it stands to be true that we can also inherit skills, talents and likes, as well. The science and theory go beyond, but for my purposes I’ll stick to that. I’ve never really known where my love for creating comes from. My family, save my brother, have been doctors, nurses, military, scientists, teachers, farmers, etc. I still don’t know if there were artists, such as painters, in our family. I’ve always been able to pick up creative skills quickly: drawing, painting, dancing, photography, these things make sense to me. About three years ago, I started needlepointing, mostly by suggestion from my mom. I wasn’t expecting to be good at it, much less like it, but I immediately found it soothing and a lot like painting. My grandma has been needlepointing for fifty years or so. I don’t think I ever really appreciated the talent, work and time she put into her pieces. I didn’t appreciate it as an art. When I was younger, I half dismissed needlework as old timey and boring. As a kid, who really wants to sit in quiet patience, working on a project that could take days, weeks, or months to complete? I didn’t, but now it’s a whole other story. As I progressed from a simple basket weave, which I learned from a YouTube tutorial, to creating stitch patterns of my own, my grandma commented on how quickly I advanced and that she’d never had a student pick it up that way. She said to my mom one day, “she’s a little of me, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Anna all wrapped in one,” which brought the thought of genetic memory back to me. Even though I had never been interested or learned needlework I discovered that I had the skill for it, it came to me so naturally as if I always knew how it do it. Through research into my grandma’s side of the family I discovered many women before her were accomplished in the skill as well. It’s a wonderful feeling of connection to find out about the lives behind the people in my history who were only names to me before.
Through the exploration of my family history I’ve also come across photos that until now have been a little of a mystery or have been confused through time. One such photo that we assumed was my grandma’s mother turned out to be her grandmother, Clara Mae. These small revelations probably won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like setting a puzzle right when it had missing or misplaced pieces. These discoveries have inspired my needlework and also my paintings. I have started a few paintings of ancestors that I’ve dubbed Gone But Not Forgotten, Clara Mae is the first.
As I mentioned at the start, I’m truly grateful for the professor who took the time to help me learn how to learn and gave me the incredible gift of our story in History. Sometimes opening your mind to something you don’t think you’d like, and have always resisted, can change everything. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if I had never taken that history class.
Thank you to all the teachers who care, who have incredible patience, and who give so much just for the sake of helping someone else learn! Each of you are a gift! Sometimes you don’t know the real impact you make on the lives you touch.