Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Context is everything

There is a special culture in small towns.  It's about context and can drive outsider's or newcomer's crazy.  It drives natives crazy as well.  One of my favorite aunts used to say "Somebody farts around here and everybody knows about it."  
The web of connections here in my home area - Venango County, PA - is very intricate and runs quite deep.  For example, much to my surprise, when I closed on my house in Franklin in 2000, I discovered it had been owned and originally built by one of my relatives in 1905.  M.R. and Freda Henderson - Catherine Lamberton's parents.  M.R. was Justice of the Peace in Franklin and an early ham radio enthusiast.
My mother's parents, Leah and Howard Hawkins, moved from Indiana PA to Oil City's South side in the 20's or early 30's to start a "mom and pop" grocery store.  I have a wonderful picture of a string band posing in front of that store.  My mother was born in Oil City in 1936.  My love of music came from my mother and grandfather.  
 The Venango County roots on my father's side of the family go back more generations - to Thomas Law - I believe 5 generations back - maybe more.  And so, there are many offshoots of that clan - Law, Bennett, Osborne, Gilliland, Corbett, Henderson... and you get the picture.  All of which place me in greater context.  Someone hears my last name and asks if Bill or Carl - both teachers - are related.  And so, I am seen in light of them.  Fine light I might add.
When you are young and seeking your own identity, that can be unnerving.  Like being compared to your older sibling in school.  
But as I am growing older, I am finding great joy in it.  I come from a long line of good working class (and a few upper class) people.  Honest, hard working, fun loving people.  Kind people on both sides of my family who passed many wonderful values on to me.  It is a context I hope I will be viewed within.   And it is a light I strive to carry.

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