This I Believe

Sarah - Wise, Virginia
Entered on February 13, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: family, legacy

The path of life has led me through a mere twenty years on this earth; however, it is not just my life experiences that have affected the way I live my life. I believe that the generations before me have even impacted my life in an integral way. I never had the opportunity of knowing my grandparents, but I live my life searching for remnants of their lives. I will not claim it easy to know somebody that I have never known, but I’m blessed every time I learn something.

My grandparents were special people, so I have heard. They were all strong-willed, talented people who lived in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. My grandmothers were the stereotypical mountain women who took care of their families at all costs. They sewed, quilted, raised 14 children apiece, and sent their legacy on to my generation. One of my grandfathers was a farmer, miner, carpenter, brick mason, and woodworker; he made intricate banjos and fiddles by hand in his later years. I only know him by listening to his lead voice and banjo playing on a record his gospel quartet once recorded. My other grandfather was an army man in WW1, a subsistence farmer, and a bootlegger in his later years.

My heritage is richer than the earth of these extraordinary mountains I grew up in. I believe my heritage, in part, makes me who I am. I believe that the grandparents I never met passed on their legacy to their innumerable grandchildren that are currently living out their own legacies. In a way I feel most of them continue to look forward without looking back to where they came from. They move away from these mountains and change into a different kind of people.

I’m trying to live my life in search of the important things: a relationship with God, a close-knit family, and things that will continue the legacy passed on from my grandparents. Sometimes it’s a struggle to not get caught up in the fast pace of modern life, but I always come back to this place of peace in my heart when I learn old skills and old handicrafts that my grandparents once knew as well.

The past several years I have helped my father plant, maintain, and harvest our garden. There is nothing like your bare feet sinking into moist soil as you walk behind your father planting your favorite variety of corn. Nothing. Three years ago my aunt taught me how to make corn shuck dolls. I hope to be making a quilt and learning how to play my grandfather’s banjo.

I’m not just the person I’m because of the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, or the lessons I’ve learned; but because of the rich heritage of my family that resonates in the Appalachian Mountains even to this day. It’s my life ambition to never forget where I came from and to continue a legacy that should not be forgotten.