The Shadow of Family Trees

I live in a small town where people tend to stay when they’re grown, or if they leave, they come back to retire. I thought there would be a problem, since the residents of many such towns tend to stick together and not welcome newcomers, but not here. Everyone (well, almost everyone — there’s always that one person who aggravates) has been kind and welcoming. Now that I’m sorting out the family trees just a bit, this welcome amazes me even more. It seems as if almost everyone is related within one or two degrees of separation.

For example, I met the grandson of the woman I am working for (with?) and today, talking to another friend, she mentioned her grandson of the same name. Turns out, it’s not a coincidence of names — the same boy is the grandson of both women. In another case, one friend’s grandfather is another friend’s uncle. I can’t even wrap my mind around that!

I may never get all these relationships straight, but it doesn’t matter. The shadow of their family trees doesn’t fall on me like it does with those who grew up here. I can take people are they are, rather than what limb they came from.

Another thing I discovered (that has nothing to do with family trees, though it does have to do with plants) is that at one time, 92% of all zinnia seeds came from this area. It must have been beautiful, driving down a highway lined with jewel-toned fields, all the colors mixed together in a riot of joy. It certainly explains why zinnias seem to like me — it’s not me so much as that they feel at home.

It would be nice to think that the zinnias I found growing in my yard were descendants of the original flowers, but I doubt it. Although I was surprised to find the zinnias, it’s only because I forgot that I planted them. Well, in a way, I planted them. I had some old seeds that I threw out into the yard instead of tossing the unopened packet in the trash. Most of the seeds did nothing, but the zinnias decided to grow. So nice of them!

I’ve never really had any special feeling for zinnias, but after this summer, seeing the cheerful blooms and knowing they belong in the area, might even belong to the same family tree as those original zinnia fields, I’m considering planting a yardful of them next year.

One of my new friends (one of the grandmothers) told me about a seed store in a town up the road a piece. They might even have seeds grown around here, which would be nice.

What is also nice is being able to plan for next year, knowing that unless something traumatic happens, I’ll still be here in this small town. And probably still trying to sort out the shadows of all those family trees.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

7 Responses to “The Shadow of Family Trees”

  1. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    We lived briefly in a town of 6,000 and came face to face with the “everyone’s related” and the “everyone knows everyone” problems. When people run for local offices there, they tout their local family histories. Most of the inherently dislike outsiders. We got fed up and left.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Jeff and I lived in small towns of all sizes, from 800 to 8,000 and were never made to feel welcome. After he died, the only people who even cared (though we’d lived there twenty years) were the librarian and one grocery store clerk. I moved here for the house, fully expecting to find the same non-reception as every other place I lived, but I lucked out.

  2. Estragon Says:

    My late wife was into genealogy, using various sources to construct family trees. I always wondered how different the trees would look if they were based on genetics (as opposed to official records and accepted truth). Maybe, as time goes by, you’ll run into some of these “shadows” on the local family trees.

    I wonder if zinnias have similar shadows?

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m one of the dead ends on my family tree. It’s weird living in a town where so many are related in such a few degrees of separation, because I’ve never lived around relatives. Both parents grew up in the east, moved to Denver to raise a family, and then moved to the west coast when we were grown.

      I bet the near local seed store still has seeds descended from the original zinnias in the area.

  3. Joe Says:

    You should definitely do that. They’re forgiving as you have found, and pollinators are attracted to them, and you can get cut flowers for indoors which results in more flowers as they respond by forming more buds. I would recommend true or heirloom zinnias from seed, rather than the hybrids that are sold as plants because you cannot save the seeds from those hybrids and get duplicates the next year. So check out that seed store! I bet they would have advice appropriate for your area.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thanks for the suggestions. I am thrilled to have finally figured out something fun to do with at least part of my yard. I’m also looking forward to going to the seed store next spring. I seem to remember someone telling me that a relative works there in the lab or the greenhouses developing seeds, so that, too, will be fun to check out.


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