John Denver has a line in Rocky Mountain High about “going home to a place he’d never been before.” That is what I did a couple of weeks ago, only I went east to Plymouth, MA rather than west to Colorado for a family reunion. I spent Saturday afternoon and evening with distant cousins I’d never before met in person. Knowing we shared at least two ancestors in common gave us a starting place to discover what else we might have in common. We came to the family reunion from Brisbane, down under in Australia, California, Idaho, and of course, a few places close to Plymouth. This event was the triennial meeting and banquet for the Elder William Brewster Society.
The group honored cousin Ben, who lives in Plymouth, as he spent part of his 98th birthday with us. I couldn’t help but wonder if Great Grandpa Brewster might have looked something like him.
More Family Connections
One of the cousins I met at the event told me where I could find the tombstone of our common ancestor. I had looked for it on a previous research trip to Plymouth but hadn’t found it. The next day I decided to look again and found Elder Brewster’s marker located at the base of Burial Hill in Plymouth. It is right behind the Church of the Pilgrimage, which is next to the Mayflower Meeting House. More about those places in the September newsletter.
Our ancestor is not actually buried here, but the tombstone is a testament to his long life. The information about his wife Mary is speculation. No one has yet conclusively proven her lineage. I went with the Wentworth theory for my two Mayflower historical novels because it worked well in my telling of their stories. Historical fiction provides that literary freedom. I included a disclaimer that the idea of Mary’s surname being Wentworth remains speculation.
Another Family Reunion
Last weekend I attended a local family reunion, hosted by granddaughter Erin and future grandson-in-law Luke. They hosted their engagement party in an entertainment area of their downtown Columbus apartment building. This was essentially a chance for future in-laws to meet one another. We had about equal numbers of his and her friends, siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents, and other folks connected to them.
It was inspiring to see a few dozen people mixing and mingling over the beautiful arrangement of drinks and hors d’oeuvres, games of pool, and a family favorite – corn hole. Attendees ranged in age from a few months to well, let’s leave it as several of us qualified for Medicare years ago. Watching a young couple in love so graciously welcoming each other’s friends and families into their lives gives me hope for the future.
Erin and Luke are one couple among the three engaged couples in the family. We also welcome into the family Jordan, engaged to granddaughter Sarah in Houston; and Josie, engaged to grandson Jon, in Arkansas. Our family is scattered, which makes staying up to speed on people’s lives challenging, but worth the extra effort – not to mention plane tickets – to connect and support these young couples. Their love for one another is a gift to all of us.
Families are Forever
Our family tree has some scars, as I imagine all family trees do. Relationships that didn’t go as intended. Hurt feelings. Disappointing outcomes. Unresolved issues. And yet, because of everyone’s mutual love and affection for Erin or Luke, and now Erin and Luke, and the others too, dozens of us have their weddings on our minds. Trespasses are overlooked. Old wounds have sufficiently healed to be set aside. Failures forgiven. Accomplishments acknowledged. Prospects celebrated.
Families are connected both by ancestors who passed through this world centuries ago and families expanding now through the commitments young people make to forge new family branches together. Those who have come before us have helped form us. We literally carry their DNA within our bodies. And we impact those with us now as they form their own unique branches and pass on the family DNA to new generations.
Families are too central to our lives to leave fractures untreated or let failures dominate the family stories and histories. Forgiveness is the salve that heals. We would do well to apply it generously wherever it is needed. That includes forgiving ourselves when we fail and accepting forgiveness when offered. We don’t get to choose the families that birth us. We sometimes fail with the families we forge, but we always, always, always have the option of forgiveness and generosity. Though fragile and fallible, families are forever. Those we claim as kin deserve the best we have to offer.
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Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold. Bookshop.org/Mayflower; Mary Brewster
Amazon.com/Mary Brewster’s Love Life
Autographed copies are available on my website.