The last few years I have had some stunning breakthroughs in knowledge about my family history. When I began my adoption search I didn’t even know the names of my birth parents. Finding them seemed like an impossible task, but after I finally found them my life was significantly enriched. They had many stories to tell about family history, cultural traditions and ancestry. The retelling of these stories about their happiest moments and how they bounced back from the difficult ones are interesting and likely to continue for many more generations.
I was most enthralled when hearing about the nearly two hundred year old wedding shoes in our family. Eight generations ago two brothers married two sisters. The two boys lived on a farm on the east side of a lake on a high rocky peninsula that jutted out into the water with excellent views of the lake. Every evening when their chores were finished the two boys viewed the fiery red sunsets silhouetting the opposite shore where two sisters lived in a farmhouse in a small sheltered cove protected by large trees; and every morning when the sisters awoke at dawn they looked across the lake and viewed the darkened shape of the peninsula where the two boys lived framed against the morning sky.
On a warm summer night under a full moon the two brothers asked the two sisters to marry. The oldest brother was taller, stronger and considerably more vain than his younger brother. He considered himself superior because he was entitled to a greater share of the family inheritance and property. He was the jealous type and eager to prove that his new bride was the most beautiful and worthy of the two sisters. The younger brother was hard working and earnest. He truly loved his fiancé and cared very little about the quality of her clothes or outward appearance. Both girls were eager to be married but ashamed to admit that they had no shoes to wear for the wedding. The older brother had a friend who was an excellent shoemaker and agreed to purchase a new pair of wedding shoes made from the best leather for both brides. In order to make his bride appear more worthy and superior the older brother applied extra coats of polish and buffed her shoes until he could see his reflection. He then mischievously rubbed coal dust into the leather of the other pair of shoes to dull the glossy finish and make them appear older and less valuable. He bought two small wooden boxes to store the special shoes and hired an artist to paint elegant designs with bright colors preserved with a shiny lacquer finish on the box containing his wife’s shoes and simple patterns painted with dull brown, black and dark green colors on the other box. The younger couple didn’t seem to mind and both couples were happily married and had many children. The older brother inherited his father’s farm and the younger brother inherited his wife’s farm. They both had large families and when their daughters were married they were offered the chance to wear the same shoes their mothers had worn. After several generations and many weddings both pairs of shoes became family heirlooms. The shoes and the wooden boxes were given to a local museum along with a list of the many brides who wore them, and each time a younger daughter, sister, cousin or niece was married they were encouraged to wear the legendary wedding shoes worn by their great grandmothers because all of the women before them had been happily married and bore many children.
Preserving the memories that connect us with the past is what makes each family unique. The retelling of these stories is what gives us our self-identity and helps us thrive. If you are adopted and found your roots, what types of stories would you most expect to hear?
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