My name is Katherine. But on occasion, my mother calls me “Karla” after my grandfather Karl, on her side. I take after him in many ways (probably more than I know) including weird feet with toes that rival fingers in length. (I’m sorry if that just made you gag a little bit. I understand.) We also share incredibly thick hair, double-jointed thumbs, and a propensity toward flights of fancy, slouching, and spending money now rather than later. He loves travel (I do, too), collecting things (I do not), and he’s spent years of time and travel researching his family history. I never understood his quest when I was younger. Who really cares about some names and life spans? Well, then I got sucked into Pheobe‘s “Who Do You Think You Are?” and caught the bug. I signed up with ancestry.com just like the producers wanted, and proceeded to spend almost 72 hours straight doing research. I found a ton of information, about 75% of which I think might be true. In one weekend the internet answered a question my grandfather hadn’t been able to confirm for years, as to how exactly our line landed in North America. I was hooked.
In the course of information I discovered Jaron’s mother’s family has a castle in England, lost an ancestor in Israel while fighting in the crusades, includes the amazing “Hereward the Banished”, and apparently originally descended from King Arther and Gwenivere. Like I said, not all of it can be assumed accurate. His father’s family came over from Poland just about 100 years ago. And apparently the Kaminskis are the “Smiths” of Poland, so that’s all I could confirm.
My paternal grandmother’s family has a long history of involvement with the Free-Will Baptist movement in Canada and my maternal grandmother’s family has a slave-holder on one side and an African-American man of Creole descent on the other. I didn’t get her amazing skin.
And Karl’s family has been here from England since the 17th century. They hung out almost exclusively in Maine until he came to San Diego just in time to have my mom.
I look at my family tree now and I see an adventure map. The chances of one generation surviving to the next are slim. If Jaron’s family had waited thirty years to emigrate, all signs say they would have been swallowed by the Holocaust. It’s an incredible gift to be here, to be one of the lives afforded. And it is an illusion to believe that it’s any one person’s responsibility. As if “Harry the Litvok” could have guessed that one day his descendant would be a musician on a continent he never knew. That he would make his living teaching people to use machines that record images and sounds and schedules and thoughts. And all the beautiful and terrible stories that would lead from his own life to Jaron’s.
As a 21st century American woman I daily feel the tension of the callings and opportunities available to me – work, play, entertainment, art. The roles of wife, daughter, homemaker, sister, aunt, employee, and friend are enough to make my head spin, and on many days make the addition of motherhood sound the most harrowing undertaking I can imagine. One for which I am certainly not equipped. I am far too human, far too weak for a job that requires tireless patience, self-sacrifice, and a serious amount of physical pain. But if I look back at the haphazard paths of our genealogies, or if I look forward at the young prince and princesses in my sister’s family, if I think about the glorious task of instructing them to be the kinds of rulers and caretakers that we are called to be, the whole picture changes. Having and raising children becomes the most important application of wisdom and art I can imagine. And the rewards, though they may be never be visible to me, will be more than apparent to the children generations from now.
As Jaron and I re-enter the world of real estate and banks and all the responsibilities that go with them, I want to be able to see more than the size of the kitchen or the amount of dollars and hours the house will require. I want to be able to see my and my husband’s castle. Cheesy as it sounds. The place where we will hone our skills for serving and ruling, for investing and receiving, for learning more and more what it is to be faithful, and maybe, for nesting the next generation of Kamin/Howard/Hamm/Chase children.