Written by: Joe Fiduccia
For most of my adult life, I would look forward to the month of October for the same reasons as many others. The comfortable climate, the changing Fall colors, the excitement of trick-or-treating, and the beginning of the holiday season celebrations.
Little did I realize (up until maybe three years ago) that it was also a time to celebrate my family’s history.
October is officially designated as Family History Month in the United States. By definition, it is a time to create memories with family, and to remember our roots, our heritage, and reflect on the lives of our ancestors before us.
When you begin researching Family History Month and start reading some of the articles that appear, you’ll find many people suggesting the same themed activities, such as scrapbooking, updating family trees, visiting cemeteries, and even memorializing stories in your Footprint. And while I certainly encourage all of that, and more, I choose to honor this month in a very different way.
Family History Month has indirectly reminded of something I work hard every day to forget: that the family I once knew is now broken, and will never be the same again.
Unfortunately, and mostly by my own choice, I no longer have a connection to most of the members of my family…including brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of us have parted ways for one reason or another, and we are each living our own lives in a different part of the world.
Growing up we created memories that will no doubt last a lifetime. We experienced things together that continue to make me smile, and supported each other when times were tough. We are all family by blood, and I am honored to have spent most of my life in their company.
But things are different now. We are in a new place with families and lives of our own. While we are likely in each other’s thoughts, we are no longer in each other’s company. We have severed ties and now walk our own path, none of us certain where the future will lead us, or if those paths will cross ways once again.
In many respects, our family history is now broken. We have unexpectedly snapped the chain that extends back through the centuries. And our generation is the cause of it all. We aren’t just writing a new chapter in our family’s life journey. We have started a new book.
But that doesn’t mean we still don’t have a family worth celebrating with, and writing about.
You see, while there are millions of families out there who will celebrate their heritage this month with Sunday dinners or laughs in a fancy restaurant, not all of us have much of a family to turn to. And to those of you who fall into that category, I want you to know that you are not alone this month.
There are people all over the world who come from a broken family, but have also found ways to form bonds with a new family. It doesn’t matter if they are blood relatives or strangers you have developed a connection with. By choice, we welcome these people into our lives who share a similar interest and pursue the same goals.
And with each passing day, we are writing new history together…as a family.
While this untraditional approach goes against the textbook definition of “family”, that bond we build together and the chapters we write can create a loving connection that is more than enough to warm our hearts.
Family History Month isn’t just a time to look through the scrap albums of your great grandparents, or a time to update your family tree. It is also a time to reflect on your own personal experiences with the people in your life (past and present) who you considered family, whether they are relatives by blood or not. Cherish the good times you had with your loved ones, and learn from the experiences that you would almost rather forget.
And as we continue Family History Month, I invite you to use this time to evaluate where you are, and where you’re going. Get out and celebrate your life with those that are closest to you, and remember that a broken family does not equate to a broken future.
Celebrate your roots, honor your family history, pave the way for what lies ahead, and give thanks to the lessons of your past. Use this as a time to teach your children the importance of family, and help them understand why they have the power to be the author of their own book. Not just another chapter in yours..
Each of us are leaving behind a Footprint in our family’s journey. So let’s allow Family History Month to become a time that reminds us to watch where we step. Because it’s our Footprints that will ultimately help our future descendants (blood relatives or not) start their own journey into the unknown.