Tonight, I am wrapping up the final night of holiday visiting with my family. It’s been a relaxing time to reconnect with the people who formed me, sharing stories and memories along with meals, cookies, candy and cards. In the midst of an often complicated world, visiting my family has a feeling of old fashioned simplicity. Of course, we also have all those real-word complexities of health, aging, relationships that all families navigate. But, there is something special about reconnecting with my family this particular time of year with its cut-out cookies, chocolate covered peanut butter balls, hand-made candle votives and taking a visiting “tour of trees” to the home of each of my relations.
Every visit, I learn something new about this family that raised me. This time, an unexpected gift came in the form of historical records about my great-grandfather, Henry Hauber. My mother had received a letter in the mail after visiting the Pierce Arrow car museum in Buffalo where she signed the guest register and penned a note that she was related to a former employee, Henry Hauber. Unexpectedly, the museum contacted her a few weeks ago with a copy of his draft registration card from World War I.
On June 5, 1917 this young man named Henry Fred Hauber went to work as a carpenter for Pierce Arrow, using his skills to build the wooden dashboards and interiors of the newly invented automobile. He dutifully filled out a draft card, noting at age 22 that he was asking for an exception to service, because he needed to provide for his wife and two young children. He had gray eyes and light brown hair; he was short in stature and medium build. His card noted he was not bald, although his lack of height and hair undoubtedly defined him later in his life.
At first, I thought the document was pretty cool, and I was admittedly quite impressed with the due diligence on behalf of the museum. But, what really made an impression was discussing this newly found document with various family members as we made our visits during this trip.
First, I visited my great-aunt Virginia…who will be 93 next week…and she pointed out this must have been completed when only her older sisters Marcella and Viola (my Grandmother) were born, before she and her younger siblings were even a glimmer in his eye. That made me do a double-take, having already had to say good-bye to my great-aunt Marcella and my grandmother Viola.
The conversations continued, remembering my great-grandfather as the master carpenter city dweller…with country relations…who eventually also settled himself and his family in the small farm community where my extended family now resides. His children married and settled in down the road and on nearby farms, creating the spread of family in that rural community that I grew up knowing and loving. As a child, my grand-mother had spent her formative years living in the city, too. Hearing their stories perhaps made me ponder my own duality…always a pull to the beauty of the country, along with an ever-present city sensibility. The early origins of a city-country blend are evidently at the roots of my family tree. This particular document reinforced that for me and I felt renewed belonging and a sense of being understood.
Today, as I sat lunching with my mother and her two sisters, we continued this conversation about Henry Hauber. I was able to hear their memories of their grand-father from their own experiences. For one of my aunts in particular, memory is a fleeting and precious thing; so hearing her own recollection jarred was a gift. I even caught a flash of memory of my great-grandfather from my own past even though our overlap on this earth was only for a few short years when I was very young. I remembered a kind, funny man who asked me to draw him pictures of his favorite foods so that he could pretend to eat them. I remember drawing him a watermelon, one day around the 4th of July. That would have been around 55 years after he had filled out that draft card…something he himself had probably even forgotten.
Today, nearly 100 years after filing that document, Henry Hauber’s grand-daughters, great-granddaughter, and great-great granddaughter all sat around a dining room table, relating to each other. That is how it is with families…it just keeps going on, moving forward, life creating life. But the depth of our connections is not lost, and it’s astounding that something as a simple as an old draft card can remind us of how much we share.
Tonight, I am reminded of how much all this relation means to me, even as I move about my own independent life almost 100 years later. I am grateful to be a part of this family, drawing strength from the roots of our relations that run deep and strong.
In response to the AdventWord global advent calendar project with the Society for St. John the Evangelist. Today’s word: #Relate. Follow the worldwide advent calendar at: http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm