Ok so when we were little kids in school, we learned the most terrifying thing about the Middle Ages. No, not the Plague! To me, the most terrifying this about feudalism was that, whatever class you were born into, that was your job for life. Basically, if your parents were farmers, you were a farmer. If your parents were nobility, you were nobility. To a child of the 80s who, to that point, had been fed a steady diet of “you can be whatever you want to be!” and “work hard and you can do anything you want!” and “what do you want to be when you grow up?” this HORRIFIED me. I mean, IMAGINE having no choice but to follow in your forbearers’ footsteps?! I shudder.
When in actuality… I kinda… have ???
My parents were both librarians. Now, I’m not exactly filing books away in the stacks, but being the offspring of librarians basically instilled in me a curiosity.
My mother, in particular, used to work the reference desk and she used to say, “Librarians may not know everything, but they know where to find it.” This in the days of card catalogs and microfiche, before we all had Siri and Google on our phones to tell us whatever we wanted to know. Another thing you may not know is that my mother was a professional storyteller! Yes, she used to get up in front of audiences at schools and cafes and community functions and tell stories! Now whom does that sound like… ? Oh Yeah! Her Daughter, the certified Tour Guide with Distinction!
My dad, as long as I can remember, was always watching the History Channel (in the days before its “ALIENS!” reality programming). He instilled in me a curiosity about the past, with his old records and Saturday Night Live marathons of the Gilda Radner age. Over the dinner table, we’d endure lectures about historical events — when we weren’t trying to one-up one another with puns. Yeah, I may have gotten my storytelling skills from Mom, but my terrible sense of humor definitely comes from Dad.
But it gets weirder, because if you look at my mom’s parents, there’s a direct link to my work as Studio Assistant at Hat Rabbit Studios. My mom’s father, my grandfather (RIP), was an electrician. He worked on building the hydroelectric power plant up at Niagara Falls, dangerous work at the time! Now, not only is there a funny story from 1st grade when I got extra credit on a spelling test for correctly sounding out the word “HYDROELECTRIC”, but I think of him any time I’m soldering together wires at the studio. When I manage to make something that lights up perfectly, the first time, with no mistakes, I feel like my grandfather’s hand was in it, somehow.
Now my grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a consummate artist. Perhaps best known for her painted china plates and tea sets, I think of her often at the studio when I’m working on the non-electric side of things. When I paint, when I sew, when I’m crafting any little odd thing. She made dresses for all her granddaughters! She always had some craft project going, or another, and I like to think she’s amused that I’m carrying on the legacy. I can’t paint flowers as elegantly as she does, but I get the job done!
Sadly, my father’s father passed away when he was very young, and his mother also passed away when I was twelve, so my memories of her are more distant. She raised my dad as a single mom who was full of spark and sass. The sense I get was that she was very independent — I remember being very young and visiting her in her apartment in Tonawanda. It may not have occurred to me then, but I’m perhaps living a lifestyle that is closest to my grandma on my dad’s side: the apartment, the independence, the fact that I remember one time when we watched Star Trek together. I have so much respect, admiration, and awe for the lady who lived through so much, had so many challenges, and lived independently for so long into her life. RIP, Grandma.
So I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On purpose? Or is it fate? Destiny? A repressed secret desire to make my ancestors proud by leaning into their expertise? I dunno! Have you followed in your forbearers’ footsteps? Let me know in the comments!