Last week, I prepared e-mail cards to send to some of my “near and dear” for St. Patrick’s Day.
For my daughter, older son, and my cousin’s daughter (my goddaughter), I added a little message that varied from the others I sent. “I am a ‘wee bit’ Irish,” I wrote, “so that means you are a ‘wee bit,’ too. What would have happened if my great-grandmother didn’t come over from County Antrim, Ireland as a little girl all those years ago?”
I was attempting to be somewhat clever, but when you think about it, all the happenings in our lineage that preceded us make us who we are today.
Just taking that one tiny bit of information, I can easily see how things progressed that—had a happening or two been different—my “being” might be a very different “being” indeed.
For instance…what if the parents of my great-grandmother Ann didn’t decide to come to America? Even though they did, what if they had stayed in New York?
Instead, somewhere along the line Ann married a Scotsman and they lived in Caledonia, Minn. They had four children, and then Ann’s husband died of typhoid fever. Later, she and three of the (nearly grown) children decided to go to Dakota Territory to homestead.
They had to wait a bit in Iowa for the river to go down, and there the daughter (my grandmother) met a young man making the trip from Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
The families settled near the fledgling town of DeSmet. The young man and young woman were married and, down the line, one of their children became my mother some years later.
Continuing my “what if,” my father’s first wife died of cancer, and Dad was left with two little girls to rear alone. He hired a housekeeper from the DeSmet area (my mom’s Aunt Alice), who took care of the children on Dad’s farm south of Wessington. She introduced her employer to her niece.
As they say, the rest is history.
But even that history could have been altered. I’ve been told that when my dad moved up from Nebraska, he was planning to take the train to Minnesota to look for land. He met another fellow on the train and they traded tickets…so Dad ended up in Hand County, South Dakota.
It’s interesting to ponder all those “what if” questions, and I’m sure it could be taken back eons of time, to consider the choices made by any of our ancestors, and what impact those choices had on who, what and where we are today (or maybe we’d not be anywhere).
As for my kids, “what if” their dad hadn’t asked me to dance, or “what if” I’d declined. The fate of generations to come can depend on as simple a decision as accepting an invitation to dance.
Obviously, the whole idea of ancestor’s choices is mind boggling, and I don’t advise spending a lot of time contemplating it.
But sometimes a little backward look is interesting. I’ve seen pictures of County Antrim…green and lush. Quite a difference from a barren Dakota Territory. My mother (Ann) was named for her grandmother (Ann), and my second name carries on, as did my cousin’s second name.
I’m so glad the Robinsons decided to board that ship.