"For my ways are not your ways, neither are your thoughts my thoughts, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."Sometimes you just get lucky and you find what you didn't know you'd lost.
I'd chosen a new family to work on, Charles and Anna Sophia Carlson and their four surviving children of eleven, G. Irene, Walter A., Meda G., and Carl Anders, my dad's paternal grandfather. I've written about Charles and Anna a bit, and my great grandfather, Carl Anders. But I can't find G. Irene and Meda G. after a certain age. I've concluded that they never died, but are roaming the earth, doing good deeds and random acts of kindness.
I was going to give up and throw in the towel again with the family history story-telling because it was getting like this with all of the rest of my ancestors. They were living in an alternate universe and were not budging to give me any clues as to their whereabouts.
Happy to report, the joke's on them. As soon as I made the heart-wrenching decision to end the quests, I remembered that I had barely touched my husband's ancestors! So, I'm leaving mine in the dust for a while. We'll see how anxious they get to be remembered! They'll be calling out of the darkness like a child who thinks he has been forgotten in a game of Hide-and-Seek.
For now, let me introduce you to one last ancestor from my side of the family, the ninth child to Charles and Anna Sophia Carlson, Walter A., and his lovely wife, Ethel Young. Their journey is a first for me with potential for a different sort of tragedy or lesson depending on how you look at it.
As long as I've been researching my ancestors I've been moved by the thoughts and feelings associated with the loss of life, especially a child's. I've seen families with eleven children reduced to four due to famine and illness. I've watched others adopt and start new marriages with children blended in from both sides. I've been educated and humbled by my ancestors' difficult and unique circumstances.
But I've never encountered a childless couple. A couple who never even chose adoption as an alternative. And that, my friends, leaves me with a question. What does it feel like to have expectations dashed?
Walter and Ethel married when she was 22 and he 26, in 1905. I'll bet they thought that the children would just start coming. And I imagine their parents, siblings, other relatives and friends did, too.
It's one thing to be disappointed when things don't work out according to plans. It must be awful to bear the burden of others' expectations of you and how they picture your life would and should be.
This is a trial I can't imagine. Children came easily to me. I never had a longing for them. How does that affect a person? A couple? How does the life you thought you'd have change to what it is?
This is the first couple that I found where both spouses worked outside the home. She was a stenographer in a law office, he a stationary engineer in one of Washington State's public schools. His job as a stationary engineer, from what I gathered, was basically to keep the heat and lights going in the school. So in a way he was taking care of a whole quiver of children!
As I watched Ethel and Walter I became aware of a new kind of suffering, one of longing for what others so mindlessly take for granted. But, I can't speak for them and how they dealt with their circumstances. All I know is what their story showed me about my life...
...how the bearing and raising of children changed me as does the breaking out of a cocoon strengthen an emerging butterfly.
This couple caused me to reflect on the blessing of waking up every day to little beings who, while unknowingly drive me closer to the edge of insanity, have molded my heart to feel a love I could never have thought possible.
They've tested and tried my patience. I believed I was a patient person before I had children. But 25 years with not one night that has blessed me with more than a three hour stretch of sleep, has taught me that until tried to extremes we never really know who we are.
Their thoughtful questions have pushed me to find words to express what I believe as I've searched for simple answers to give inquisitive minds whose bodies have carried them away onto the next adventure before I've had a chance to answer.
Their ability to forgive quickly and embrace me with little arms and hopeful hearts and eyes have renewed my commitment daily to grow up to become more like them.
The list grows hourly, daily.
But back to Walter and Ethel. They had no children keeping them up at night with illness or requests for bedtime stories and drinks that they needed to chase the monsters away from under their beds.
Their budget wouldn't be stretched to allow for cloths and shoes that were worn out and outgrown before there was money there to replace them.
Dinnertime would be quiet and civil. No food fights, battles over elbows on the table, or squabbles as siblings got annoyed with each other's table manners.
Small things that some people complain about.
Did they long for those experiences? When they listened to their friends and relatives' tales would their hearts ache? Or did they find a way to make a difference in other childrens' lives? Walter saw children every day at school. Ethel, probably not.
There's more to think about, and a lot more to say. But that's between me and my Maker. It's time to take a moment to reflect on the blessings and the challenges of having a quiver full of children, and what some people would do to change places with me.
I've been catching myself wondering about the different paths I could have chosen. I could have danced, pursued my artwork, traveled, stayed single.
But I chose differently. I don't remember having any expectations of how it would all turn out. Like Walter and Ethel, I went on auto pilot and lived what was right in front of me as I experienced the challenges, frustrations an indescribable joy of a miraculous life that is still unfolding.
It's human to have expectations. We can try not to but we all have some. The joy in life for me, the stuff stories are made of, is seeing who I am and what I do when the journey takes on a life of its own.