Crossword Puzzles and Her Royal Highness

I found an entry I began in September, and I’m only now finishing it. I’m ashamed. There the post sat, collecting virtual dust, hoping for its purpose to be fulfilled someday, while I went off on my adventures, roaming around Texas, Kansas, and the UK. Events have happened, people have changed, I’ve changed. I am no longer 23, and I have not been for some time. My grandmother had a stroke shortly after I shelved this post, and while I did not record much of my trip with her, I am grateful to have some of the memory preserved in writing. I’ve added to and edited this entry, so now it covers from August to February. Poor entry, you have waited long enough! Your dreams of being posted have come true:

Back in my day…

I find myself saying this phrase though, sadly, I am only 23. This is what happens when you work with teenagers and when the college students roll in during the summer. They make you feel ancient. “Mom’s here!” “Mom’s back!” I realized they were talking about me when I turned around and saw no one behind me.

That’s also when I noticed my first forehead wrinkles…

What?? When did this happen? And when did these lines appear underneath my eyes? I’d curse the sun, but I’d hate to see it go. It does bring me much joy even though my face is starting to resemble a tree. (I’d never exaggerate.) Hats and sunscreen have, over the last few years, become my constant companions in this incredibly sunny and hot state of Texas. Oh, Kansas, I miss your four seasons. (Side note: one vendor said the other day, Texas has four seasons, but the seasons are really just different degrees of hot. I’d agree. I miss snow, but I am  wondering if this constant exposure to heat is preparation for Africa. Okay, God, you win. You always do. I’ll stop complaining.)

Anyway, I have been badgering my mother for months about our family history on her side because while over the years she has told me stories, I had never SEEN anything to tell me about our genealogy…what were the names of our ancestors? How did they get to America? Were they servants, were they rich? Were they business men and/or farmers? Who are my people, ma! Who am I!

In August I had the privilege to be a part of a little reunion between Granma and (Great) Uncle Dode and (Great) Aunt Marjean. They are in their later 80s, so as we arrived I imagined myself to be a part of a moment that would prove to be historically enlightening for me considering my lack of detailed knowledge about our ancestors.

I positioned myself perfectly across the room as if I was Barbara Walters in a 60 Minutes Session ready to influence the flow of conversation the way I desired it to go. My Uncle Dode leaned in toward my Granma and said, “So, Eloise, do you need help with the crossword of the day?”

Ha! 88 years old knowledge and wisdom in the room, and we’re going to talk about Sunday’s Crossword Puzzle. I love my family.

After a series of well placed questions by yours truly, conversation did eventually arrive to “Back in my day” stories; we talked of the book The Help and the Civil Rights and my grandmother’s experience with the “colored people” who worked for her daddy. Everyone used to come to the backdoor except the mailman; then during the Civil Rights, the “colored people” started coming to the front door just because they could. Now I particularly loved that bit. You can read things in a history book, and biographies are great…but it’s nothing like hearing from the mouths of people who experienced this kind of change in society. (I’m using quotations around “colored people” because it’s a specific phrase used during conversation and not one I would use in conversation myself.)

I asked my Uncle Dode how our family came over to North America; apparently one of the Postons, whose first name I cannot recall right now, indentured himself on a ship in order to pay for the trip to the New Land, around Jamestown time.

After we returned home, I picked up one of the books with my grandma’s family history in it; it focuses on the Ballew family and traces us all the way back to the 1060s. This is when I made an important discovery- well, the person who wrote the book made the discovery, but I rediscovered it. My family is connected to the monarchies of England and Castile, which I’m fairly certain was a part of Spain. We are descendants of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, daughter of Ferdinand III, the Saint.

I’m not one to hold glory in riches and status, but this is pretty cool. There are plenty of rulers you do not want to be related to, and unfortunately, after reading about Edward I, he was one of those rulers depending on where your ancestors are from. When Katie and I went to Scotland and Wales, I kept my mouth shut about being related to Edward Longshanks. Despite keeping my relations a secret from those around me (except to the one tour guide in Gloucestor (pronounced like gl-ow-ss-ter) who called Edward I a baddie), it was amazing getting to walk around the UK and see my ancestors names on plaques.

We walked into the Gloucestor Cathedral, which is absolutely breathtaking, and discovered that Edward II, my ancestor’s son and possibly a great uncle, was there! Also, we ran into one of Katie’s ancestors, so it was like a small family reunion. William the Conqueror’s eldest son’s body is buried somewhere there, but the tour guide said people weren’t sure of the exact location. We did get to touch his wooden effigy though! It’s ridiculous that these things weren’t roped off.

There was one castle in Abergavenny that Edward I laid siege to, and while Katie and I were climbing on the ruins, I said, “This could have been one of my castles!” I say that, but I’m glad I was not a woman in the 1200s. One of my relatives, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is not a perfect role model exactly, but she is a pretty fascinating part of history. If I had to be a woman during that time, she would have been interesting to be similar to, but I am grateful for the rights I have as a woman in this day and age.

Walking through Westminster Abbey blew my mind away. Eleanor of Castile and Edward I are buried there. I stood in front of Eleanor’s (Great x 37 ish Grandma) tomb and stared. I love history and to see a connection between a country I love and my own personal history is wonderful. It can make one feel small, but I also feel so special. These people had no idea that almost a thousand years later, their descendants would be spread across the world (if they did, they probably thought it’d be because of an empire.) It makes me wonder about my relatives in 1000 years time. If I ever have kids, will they stand before my grave and get goosebumps like I did before Eleanor’s? Will they see how wonderful our Creator is to have a plan for each one of us? That God used my life to bring them into existence? If there is an earth as we know it in 1000 years, I hope so. I do not need to be famous for life in this world, but it would be wonderful if my life’s experience did not disappear once I left this world for Heaven.

I guess I’ll have to make sure I tell a lot of “back in my day” stories to my relatives as I get older to preserve the memory of me. Oh, and because of my new found relations to the monarchy, feel free to call me Your Royal Highness.

Live long and prosper!

HRH, Lauren

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