Family Stories


Second from the left is my Grandfather Lewis Cunningham Clyburn, and to his left  is his mother, Jane Brown Cunningham Clyburn. I love the way she’s sandwiched between him  and my great grandfather, Lewis Craig Clyburn  The other two people are probably siblings

The three of us rode to the Myrtle Beach Airport in the misty, predawn light, that special time of day when the world seems almost magical as it emerges from darkness into light. No wait, it was around four o’clock, maybe even 4:30, long before sunrise. Cars were already on Highway 501, their drivers heading to and from the beach, some likely on their way to work in tourism, health care, or law enforcement.

To them, it was just another dark morning. Not to us. The ride symbolized a transition from one stage of life to another, a time of growth and change. As I recall, conversation was muted and infrequent. We didn’t even listen to the radio, just quietly absorbed the moments.

By the time Paul checked his bags for Mexico, others had arrived to bid him farewell, including his dad and several friends. There was another missionary leaving that day, both dressed in suits and looking official. The excitement of the young men was quite a contrast to what their parents were feeling. I was numb. Would it really be two years before I saw my son’s face again?

 Pulling him aside for one last “momism,” I told him that he was the embodiment of generations past, that they all went with him on this trip and really everywhere he went. “They reside in you,” I said. “Remember who you are.”

“Same with you, Mom.”

Momentarily speechless, I looked up at him and knew he was going to be just fine. At nineteen, he already understood more than his mother. Minnie lived in me—and Mary Jon, Annie Jane, Seth, and others too numerous to mention.

Last month, I reminded Paul of that moment and learned that he had no recollection of it at all. At all! Something that had served as one of the many springboards for Our Lighted Seasons: John and Margie, a family history, was totally forgotten by him. For me, that airport conversation had unleashed a fierce desire to learn more about generations back who shared my DNA.

But more than names, I wanted stories. Most of my ancestors are living on the other side of the veil, beyond worldly concerns and questions from an inquisitive great granddaughter, niece, or some other nosy parker. So I did the next best thing. I asked aunts, cousins, friends, and basically anyone else who might have a memory to share. My inquiries opened a treasure chest.

A couple of quick examples:

  • One of my aunts revealed that her father, my Grandfather Clyburn, had a side barbeque business and ice house. “There was a pit where his lifetime handyman would barbeque for two days or so and people would come from all around to buy it. Daddy made his own sausage and lunch meats, and he had a Tampa Nugget cigar box where he kept loose cigarettes, two for a nickel—Camels, Phillip Morris, Lucky Strikes.” It’s the detail I love. I’d forgotten all about those cigarette brands.
  • A cousin told me that his grandmother and my great grandmother (one of the four) was handy with a pistol and was known to have stood on the front porch of her home in Lancaster and shoot chickens for dinner.

Above are just two examples among the dozens in the book, but hearing about those people and knowing I had a savvy businessman and pistol-packing grandmother as ancestors helped make the whole “ancestry thing” much more interesting. They live in me—and in Paul and his sisters and cousins.

What about you? What are some of the stories of your ancestors, the ones who live in you?

About jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer
This entry was posted in ancestry, books, family history, nonfiction, stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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