good life by tori johnson
Part of cultivating a good life is learning about yourself through your ancestors.
How would someone who lived before you help you with that? I didn’t quite understand until recently. My mother had given me a 3-inch binder about six years ago full of information about a family line on her father’s side. “When you want to and have time, you may want to continue the search on this line.” Fast forward five years and I finally opened that book. It contained a treasure trove of information on my 5x great-grandparents who traveled from Scotland to North Carolina in the mid-1700s through the time when my great-grandparents moved to Arizona where I currently live.
I wasn’t satisfied with just the names, dates, and places though. I wanted to know why. Why did they leave Scotland in the first place and why did the whole family end up in Texas from North Carolina? What I learned changed my life. I learned about family loyalty, hardship, loneliness, and more about my country’s history. What I learned broke my heart, but it also gave me a new realization about the kind of person I want to be and what I need to work on to do better and be a better wife, mother, friend, and citizen. If you have ever watched the TLC show Who Do You Think You Are?, which is my favorite show, you may have an understanding of what I experienced.
One thing I wish I had was a record of their journey in their own words. What was it like coming across the Atlantic and losing an infant along the way? What was it like in a new country, moving your family again and again? What did they do for fun? Were they nice people? Were they good to their fellowmen? I’m sure not all of them were awesome and amazing people, but I still want to know.
My kids have heard me tell the stories of what I have learned, and for Mother’s Day this year, my 17-year-old son gave me a journal and said, “You better make sure you write down YOUR story, Mom.” Wow. This is why we keep records, take photos, and write down our stories. It is about helping us remember, but it’s also about letting those who will come after us know the kind of people we were, what we held dear, and how we overcame the difficulties that came our way.
It’s good for my kids to know that they have ancestors who were brave and strong but who also had weaknesses. It’s good for them to know about their American Indian history and that their great-great-grandfather’s Paiute name meant “sneezes like a cat.” But it’s also good for my posterity to know that I love my family but am far from perfect. It’s good for them to know that I recognize the blessings and tender mercies in my life and work hard to do and be better every day. Some days are awesome and some days are not, but I live and love as best as I can and so can they.
Note from Becky
I so appreciate this reminder from Tori. I know that so many of you reading this are documenters and story-tellers and scrapbookers. Some of you might feel the resolve to be a little better in that department. I hope you feel resolve and not despair. It’s never too late to start. Start somewhere. Start with today.
Tori is a beloved part of our extended family at Becky Higgins LLC. She offers support in all things digital related and is super talented, super sweet, and super smart. We are absolutely so grateful for all she does.