What are a few family traditions you remember as a child?
My grandparents' home being the center for gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our family has never been formal. So, I would also say that another "tradition" was to accept anyone who just randomly walked right into their house. Back then the front door was never locked. Our home was close to Main St. Like I mentioned, people never knocked. I don't even know if my grandparents had a key. You just walked right in. As an adult, that is something I would be comfortable with. But in the late 1980's-1990's, that's what you did if you didn't feel like calling someone.
Do you know who created those traditions and how they were started?
I would have to guess my grandmother or Joe as she preferred to be called. My grandparents had seven children. She never let them call her mother. She always said she was too young for that. That was her humor. She let me call her momma or Joe. Everyone else was strictly Joe. The home they resided in and raised their children in for over 25yrs was a home that was given to them by a relative. Just imagine having about 3-4 children at that time and someone just giving you a house? This occurred in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. A beautiful home in a predominately middle-class African-American area. It was just customary to be that neighborly.
It was just the togetherness. Having an opportunity to just be around all my cousins was a really fun time.
My mother’s only other child, my half sister, is different than me. Just imagine one of us being Tom and the other Jerry as children. We looked nothing alike and acted completely different. As adults, we have gotten better at understanding each other's strengths and weaknesses. She helps me and I help her - wouldn’t trade her for the world. The story of my father's side is a bit different. Most of my life I thought that if I just could make my birth father acknowledge my presence, then I could finally feel like I was worth something. He’s always included some children and not others. Growing up I always thought I was a throwaway kid; that something must be so wrong with me that I was not worth it. So, there were a few embarrassing attempts to get him to just acknowledge me. As a kid, I thought to be apart of his family's traditions would make me whole or even a better person. Over the years finding out about other siblings made me think "Ok, where do I fit in?" because the children continue to add up. When I first moved back to KY, I started reconnecting with some of my half-siblings I was aware of. In doing so, I found out and connected with siblings I never even knew existed. The number of half siblings has grown to more than seven. Once I had my children I wanted them to know their only living grandfather. I decided to go out of my comfort zone to show that I blame him for nothing anymore. I tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible so that he could just be a grandfather. It wasn’t until recently that I finally had to realize that even if I paid him one million dollars he still would not care. With all that being said, some of my half-siblings do attempt to connect, and we do try to hang out or talk and start our own family traditions. That’s what I focus on with my half-siblings - that we try to do fun, happy, and encouraging things together.
This year I decided to try AncestryDNA. I wanted to know what my genetic makeup was. I also wanted to start a family tree to see where it would lead. In doing so, I found tons of relatives on my father’s side. They have been nothing but warm and welcoming. They invited my children and I to an upcoming family reunion. It just solidified that as much as it would have been nice for my father to have included my family in such events, he is no longer the key to this larger group of relatives. So, to answer your question, my siblings also may connect with this new found extended family. It’s a win-win all around.
We are still new at the bonding thing. Some siblings just aren’t interested. I have had to accept that. But we try to go on sibling outings. Stuff that lets us all hang out together and enjoy each other's company because we all don’t live close to one another.
Yes, I want my children to know & understand the significance of having a large family. For myself a good family structure equates to grounds for positive stability.
I was a person that kept to herself and wasn’t much of a social butterfly. For my children’s sake I have attempted to start getting out of my comfort zone, so the AncestryDNA was one thing. Ok, now I needed to reach out to people. In doing so, I’ve made some meaningful connections. I want to continue with that. When my children think of their family as a community. Being proactive sometimes is a struggle for me, but it’s something I’m willing to do for my children and for myself.
The tradition of always creating an opportunity to congregate and be together. You may not get to see your family all the time, but to have those special moments that create memories. That’s what I remember about my childhood. I want them to have similar experiences.
My grandmother, Joemma and my great-grandmother, Louella, were very feisty women. So, sometimes if someone is saying or doing something that reminds us of those two, we start calling that person by their name for a while. Everyone has a good laugh, and sometimes it starts a discussion on some of the things we miss about them.
Overall, my family hadn't really kept anything over the years, but there are a few items. I wear my grandmothers wedding ring on my right hand. It was given to me 20 years ago. I believe some of her furniture and a few pictures are at various relatives houses. I hope to teach my children the importance of preservation. Especially as African-Americans, you need that to help you connect and also never forget where you came from.
Understanding how true the statement that "knowledge is power". You can say it but does a person actually get it?
Describe what family means to you
My family is my heart and soul. To have one means so much to me because it’s not something everyone has or sometimes even wants. It’s something that I am thankful for.
"I am originally from a small town in KY. I was raised by my grandparents, William & Joemma
Sanders, until they both passed away in the 1990’s. Throughout my life, my father lived in that same small town I had once resided in as a child; no further than a stone's throw away, as absent as could be. By this time, some of my family had migrated to Georgia, including my mother who had a total of 2 children: me and my half sister. I spent around 10 years living in various cities in and around Atlanta. After college, I moved to Chicago. I loved everything about the city - I just couldn't afford it. Seven years ago I was passing through Kentucky. I was single with no children and had no idea where I wanted to live next. A few weeks turned into a few months. Seven years later with two toddlers, I guess I’m staying here longer than I had planned. I’ve recently started an online boutique "K’Rena Bhails" which is the nicknames of my children. It’s a hobby right now, but I hope to one day turn it into a full time career. It’ll feature positive phrases and images that encourage black excellence. I wanted to start something my children would be proud of."