9.03.2013

who I come from



One day during the 1890s, my great-great-grandfather was riding his bike to make a delivery near the docks of the California coast. He saw a girl with a note pinned to her sweater, written in Danish, explaining she doesn't speak a word of English and that she was sent to the US from Denmark for a better life. My great-great-grandfather just so happened to be the only person around who spoke Danish. He brought her home, and they wound up getting married. She quit speaking Danish and learned English, eager to become an American.

Fifty years later, their grand daughter met a rancher in a little Chinese restaurant. They dated, married in a little white church, moved to a ranch in the green canyons of the central California coast, and had three kids, one being my dad.

this church!

Meanwhile, in rural Texas, my other grandmother was living in an orphanage and dating her high school sweetheart. She sewed all her own outfits, became a teacher, and he joined the army. They eventually got married, moved from army base to army base, and eventually settled on the central coast of California as he got a job working on NASA's missiles during the American space age.


My mom, the daughter of two brilliant Texans, grew up 20 minutes from my dad, the son of hardworking ranchers. They went to rival high schools and must crossed paths more than once, but they didn't meet until they took the same class in college.

And here I am, a product of both worlds. A California girl living in the Midwestern cornfields, the daughter of two brave people who dared to move away from their central California roots. But that girl who nervously stood on the California docks, not knowing a word of the language of her new world, had no idea the legacy she would leave. We still eat Danish aebleskivers at family gatherings, and my grandmother teaches us Danish words and phrases. The traditions are still alive and well.



I have never been to Texas or gotten the chance to meet my extended family there, but I did marry a Southern boy, and I like to think that's a nod in their direction. I don't know their stories and where they came from, but I know that my grandmother is from them, and she's at least half, if not all, of the reason I'm painfully shy and a fierce lover of music and the written word.

Like a quilt made from different fabrics, I come from a Danish girl who sailed halfway around the world by herself for a new life, from rural Texas, and from sleepy little California towns. But I'm also from the Nevada mountains, from Ohio-small town and big city, and from a family that worked very hard to get where they are in life. We were the first of our family to leave California, and James is the first of his to move away from his family's North Carolina farmland.

We didn't leave our country or learn a new language, but we come from two vastly different American worlds and cultures, and I like to think it gives me a little glimpse into the life of girl on the docks, as well a story for our future family.


22 comments:

  1. I love this, what wonderful history your family has.

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  2. You have some crazy bold ancestors, Michelle! Can you imagine moving somewhere and not knowing a word of the language??? Your great-great-Grandmother was pretty darn cool.

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  3. Will you research my ancestry and write something beautiful like this up for me??? Now I know why you are the best ever, you come from a long line of KISS ASS PEOPLE!!!

    Do you think your children and grand children and great-grandchildren will come back here and read your blog and falsely assume you truly were Amish? JUST WONDERING. BYE!

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    1. I can't help but think there is a typo at the end of that first paragraph.

      #dead #dying #officecrylaughing #needaminute

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    2. OH FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, GROW UP ALISSA. KICK ASS, NOT KISS ASS,

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    3. HEY, HIGGINS! I'm the queen of typos ...I'm just glad it wasn't me for once!

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  4. What a gorgeous entry. I love love love the story of your Danish connection and all the strength you come from... now I wish I had written something like THIS instead of what I wrote. I guess that's one of the cool things about this challenge - there are so many ways we may choose to write to the prompt and none is wrong, all are right... and wonderful in their own ways.

    So glad to meet you!!!

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  5. Wow, this is such a cool story!

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  6. This is so much more interesting than my family roots. "The Irish settler knocked up a Native American and then changed her name to Mary" just isn't as romantic.

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  7. My mind right now: https://weheartit.com/entry/68633623

    I totes thought you were 100% Amish.

    Kidding :)

    I thought I was Danish ...because my grandmother always made Danish butter cookies. Turns out, I'm not. I wish I was, so that we could be Danish Sisterwives.

    This comment took a weird turn.

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  8. Wow, you know a lot of your own family story! I don't know my family history nearly that far back, just really to my great-grandparents.

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  9. I loved reading your story, it's really interesting to read about your family history and to be able to go that far back. How romantic for your great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother. :-)

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  10. Hi from the link-up! And wow, these are such beautiful stories. I love that you were able to weave together your families stories like this. :)

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  11. NAILED IT. You win today. Because I'm making this a competition.

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  12. I agree with Tiff. You win. And I'm convinced that's HayBob's sibling up there. Just lie to me.

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  13. this makes me want to research my family.
    or, i'll just try to make something up that sounds as cool as this.

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  14. That is wild! I love family history.

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  15. oh I love this. I actually have something similar planned to post on my blog in the upcoming weeks... you've inspired me to get it written :) and come to Texas whenever you like -- I'll show you around.

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