Guest Posts · The Red Thread Diaries

Bumpy Nubs and Poking Threads: A Guest Post by Karen Perry

I’m fascinated with the concept found in some Native American traditions that we have the ability to heal our entire lineage in both directions. It’s easy to see how the choices we make right now can affect our family’s future but the idea that we are connected by energy to the past and are therefore healing those who came before us as we heal ourselves…well, that’s just the coolest idea ever.

To be honest, I don’t know if it really works that way or not. Maybe our ability to heal our lineage isn’t literal. Perhaps healing comes when we change our perspective of the past.

I once showed up on my mother’s doorstep with the purpose of asking all the questions I had always been afraid to ask. I was determined to get answers but as I listened to her talk about our family, I came to a realization. In my post,  The Big Answers, I wrote about it like this:

“My life began to look more like a tapestry where each individual thread had little significance on its own and where the beauty could only be seen by stepping back from it. Interestingly, it was the back side, with all its bumpy nubs and poking threads that was the most revealing of all.”

I’ve always thought of a family history as a linear recording of past events but one day I got an idea to deconstruct the timeline. What I found were hidden connections, common struggles, pivotal moments and everyday choices.

Here’s a glimpse into my family’s bumpy nubs and poking threads:

Larissa, age zero – Larissa never takes a breath outside of her mother’s body. In the days before ultrasounds and fetal monitoring, she is stillborn with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Following the protocol of the day, the doctor insists that her mother remain in the hospital for 10 days, forcing her to miss Larissa’s funeral.

Salvatore, age 4 – Salvatore travels with his family from Sicily to America on a steamer ship. Their first home is a cold water flat in Little Italy, New York City. The steamer chest that carried their belongings is their dining room table. The sweatshops and factories of New York City provide their livelihood.

David, age 7 – Born as quickly as nature would allow after the death of his sister, David is the only one in his family without a middle name. His mother is afraid to name him until she knows he will survive. As a form of consolation she tells him, “You are the only one we had on purpose.”

David
David

Antonio, age 13 – Antonio and his 11-year-old sister, Elvira, travel alone from Sicily on a the Napolitan Prince to America with nothing but their dreams and each other. He finds out years later that his future wife came to America on the exact same ship the year before he did.

The Napolitan Prince
The Napolitan Prince

Sheryl, age 15 – She’s pregnant and marries her sweetheart. She gives birth to her first daughter and in many ways, they raise each other.

Sheryl and Delores
Sheryl and Dolores

Paul, age 20 – After joining the Air Force and being stationed across the country, he meets and marries a beautiful woman, 5 years his senior and the mother of 4 young children. While their marriage is not destined to succeed, they bring a child into the world who has grit and determination (and likes to dabble in writing and family history).

Paul and Sheryl
Paul and Sheryl

Antoinette, age 21 – On her wedding day, she wears the dress that her soon-to-be mother-in-law stitches by hand, making magic out of the limited fabric that is available during wartime. As the years pass, she often tells her husband that she married him for his mother.

Antoinette and Salvatore
Antoinette and Salvatore

Alice, age 22 – Looking for an expedient way to find a husband, Alice answers an advertisement in the local newspaper. She begins to correspond with Roy and soon the two are married. They are married 63 years and raise 5 children.

Alice and Roy
Alice and Roy

Karen, age 24 – On her wedding day, she slips the handmade dress over her head. It’s a perfect fit. It is first worn 50 years earlier by her grandmother. It is a charmed dress, summoning forth 88 years of marriage and counting.

Karen and Matthew
Karen and Matthew

Dolores, age 29 – She is terrified of the voices telling her to hurt her children. She refuses to give in to the taunts and threats so she pushes her children into a closet and guards the door with her life. “I will not kill my children,” she declares. She wins this battle but ultimately surrenders custody of them because she knows the war will be long.

Matthew, age 37 – He is sure he never wants children until she convinces him otherwise. Now, as he stands in the hospital room with the tiny, bundled body of his son in his arms, he tells his wife, “I’m not sure how life is going to change, but I have no doubt that it’s going to.”

Matthew and Cash
Matthew and Cash

Cathy, age 54 – When her 2nd granddaughter is born, everyone comments on how the baby looks just like her. She beams with pride even though they don’t share an ounce of blood. She is her step-daughter’s bonus mom and she wears the title of Grandmother with honor and great joy.

Cathy and Cadence
Cathy and Cadence

Antoinette, age 61 – Her granddaughter gives her a “Grandmother Remembers” book to fill out as a way for her to record their family history. In the section titled The Future she writes:

“My wish for the future is seeing my family grow in love and harmony. I would love to see you grow into a young woman doing the thing you love best – whether it’s a career or marriage – why not both? Karen, always remember your family. We love you through the rough times (which we all have) and the good times (may you have many!). Always know that I am here for you. That’s what Grandmothers are for.”

Sheryl, age 72 – Her firstborn is gone. She has suffered many losses – a daughter during childbirth, the father of her children to suicide, her father, her mother, two brothers. But losing her daughter is like losing her baby, sister and best friend all at once.

Salvatore, age 89 – He lies in the hospital bed surrounded by his wife of 68 years, his children and his grandchildren. He takes his last breaths. He is a war hero and a successful businessman but his finest achievement is the love in this room.

543227_3189040248002_1316985563_n
Salvatore standing in front of the actual B-17 he flew in WWII

Antoinette, age 91 – When told what day it is, she replies, “Yea, who the f*ck cares.”

 

Antoinette and granddaughter Karen. They were once the exact same size
Antoinette and granddaughter Karen. They were once the exact same size

Looking at our family history can be both painful and nostalgic. There are ordinary events intertwined with profound moments. History repeats itself and cycles fail to be broken. Miracles are threaded with mysteries and if we’re lucky, grace abounds. The tapestry endures.

*****

I met Karen via Christy over a year ago. And, as Christy predicted, we became soul sisters almost immediately. She is the true epitome of a “heart teller” and she teaches me every day how to be a better mom, wife, friend, daughter, and person.

I have no doubt that Karen’s story stirred your soul like it did mine. Thank you to Karen from the bumpy nubbed bottom of my heart.

Karen Perry

I’m Karen Perry and I live in sunny Arizona with my husband, two kids and two dogs. I write at MendedMusings.com about family, God, my recovery from sexual abuse and the desire that most of us have to be authentic in all aspects of our lives. You can visit me on my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter @MendedMusings. Contact me at karen@mendedmusings.com.

*****

 

The Red Thread Diaries: An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, Kite Stringsor circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but will never break. ~~Ancient Chinese Proverb

Tell us about your experience with unbreakable bonds.

Are you interested in submitting? Inquire here or on the Submit Me page – taking entries for January.

 

98 thoughts on “Bumpy Nubs and Poking Threads: A Guest Post by Karen Perry

  1. Karen, you have a gift. I loved how even though I knew no one on that tapestry of yours, your words made me feel connected to them. Thanks for the touching post and reminder that the past, present and future are all part of one grand quilt we call family.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Charissa, When I first read your comment I thought the last word was “guilt” not “quilt.” (Apparently, I need to put on my glasses before I start reading and commenting. LOL) Hmmm … I guess I still have some healing to do. ♥♥

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I guess I should do capital Qs from now on because the q and g can look a lot alike. Hee hee. I can totally see how you’d think that. But we don’t need any more guilt, just quilts.

        Liked by 6 people

    2. “Your words made me feel connected to them.”
      That’s exactly how I felt when I read it for the first time as a draft. I wanted to know more, see their faces, and know their stories.
      Your comment weaves its only special thread – makes me want to know more about everyone’s history. I always love seeing you here, Char. xo

      Liked by 5 people

    1. Lisa, this post took me weeks to write and I really struggled with it. I loved the concept but it took so long for the pieces to fall into place that I almost gave up on it several times. I kept asking myself, “what is this about?” and ultimately it became about shared struggles bound by love. It was so healing for me to shift my focus and write about my family this way. ❤

      Liked by 7 people

    1. I could’ve swore I replied to your comment this morning but now it’s missing! Anyway, as I was putting this post together, I was surprised at how little I actually know about my family. There are some cherished stories that have been told over and over but at times it was a struggle to fill in the gaps. I see everyone as more human than I did before, which is a gift to me. Thank you Eli!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love looking at the tapestry that makes up our families. I also love puzzles, and what a puzzle we all have within our own families. This was a beautiful telling. Thank you for sharing your mad, amazing family with us.

    Particularly resonating for me: My paternal grandmother was also born after the death of a brother and her mother refused to name her until she was certain this baby would survive. Like David, my grandmother was eventually given a first name, but not a middle name. My mother gave birth to a girl who lived two days before dying of a heart defect. She, also was kept in the hospital and missed her baby’s funeral.

    I think that in every family there should be someone who keeps the stories alive.

    Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s so heartbreaking what happened to our mothers and grandmothers. When I was compiling the information about my family, it was shocking to see how many children were lost in my family. It’s a common thread that so many of our families share. Thank you Mary!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My grandma buried two children, four grandchildren, and her husband before she finally passed away at 94 (ish?). I still don’t know how her heart survived. I remember her telling me, “A woman should never have to outlive her grandchildren.”

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Mary,
      Reading your comments gave me goosebumps. “I think that in every family there should be someone who keeps the stories alive.”
      YES! Karen’s piece makes me want to do exactly that.
      Have you read anything of Sally Mann? She is most known for her controversial photography, but her storytelling (within the context of a complicated family history) is magic – very similar to what Karen gifted us with today.
      So happy to see you, my friend! I hope you’re doing well. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gorgeous telling of the bumps and nubs…and you almost got me interested in the history and where they all fit, but I suppose the point is that they don’t have to fit within each other’s timelines, because they each fit (and don’t) within their own 🙂 Wonderful.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello beautiful Lizzi!
      I did exactly what you said. I drew mental lines between the paragraphs and looked for genetics in the photos. Some might say it’s the scientist in me, I know it’s my curious heart.
      Thank you for being here, my friend. I hope to catch up with you later this week. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely brilliant. Sparkly and pure and true.
    Dolores…<3
    Antoinette…After 40 years I am finally learning to embrace with gusto a well-timed F-bomb. Sounds like Antoinette has mastered that timing. 🙂

    I love the idea of healing past and future through our present. Fascinating. Everyone always says, the past is done, nothing we can do about it, it is what it is. But what if it's not? Time and spirit is fluid and always changing and always in motion, and if something can swing forward, something must be able to swing backward too, no? Anyway, all that philosophical musing is right up my alley.

    I love seeing how you and Michelle have blossomed into such good friends. ❤

    Fabulous post, Karen. I believe. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. My dearest Christy,
      I knew you’d love this. It was last year that Karen first introduced the notion of healing lives through the past and future to me. How my children possess that power right now. Fascinating and full of hope. See! I can barely write coherent sentences. Thank goodness I have awesome friends to bail me out (have you see the list of characters in the comment thread? I’m blown away by everyone on here)
      As for the well-timed F-Bomb…you’ll give Antoinette a run for her money 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely, wonderful post. In fact, I found it so inspiring, I’m going to contact my mother about sitting down with her the next time I visit and get her family’s history in more detail. She’s hinted about having me write something up about it, but that’s not my forte. I write thrillers. But now you’ve got me thinking, with all the stakes our ancestors had to deal with, who says we couldn’t make a thriller out of it?

    I really enjoyed reading this. What life experiences your family has weathered.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. I’d like to know too. 😉 But I’ll probably never find out. I’m not a science fiction writer (I consider what I did in that book very light in the sci fi department), and I could never do a sequel justice. We’ll just have to assume they’re happy. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

    1. Oooh! A family thriller! I love it. It’s wonderful that your mother is willing to share her family history with you. I found out so many interesting tidbits just going through old photos with my mom. It made my imagination run wild about the details that have been lost. Thank you Carrie!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. What a phenomenal post.

    I wish I knew more of my past relations – both my Grandfathers were dead long before I was born. One fought in WWI – he was gassed – I have a photo post card of him with others in a hospital recovering in Brighton. He went on to be very involved in the Labour movement of the inter-war years being on the national executive of a union and a local politician. The other spent most of his life at sea in the navy and merchant navy even surviving a direct hit on his ship on a North Atlantic convoy in WWII.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. The healing! the celebration! That’s all that kept moving heart through this post. This is such a wonderfully creative way to reflect on family journeys through time. Your writing is quite inspirational. Thank you.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Karen, I’m so happy you replied because I was just going to respond to your post again by telling you — while I was so deeply moved by the weaving of your family history, it was this that hit me the most: “Perhaps healing comes when we change our perspective of the past.” There is such deep profound truth to that statement. It is the epitome of wellness and living in the here and now. It’s liberating. This is such a beautiful piece of work.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. People always say, “The past is the past.” I agree but I’ve always thought that what those facts mean doesn’t necessarily mean what we’ve always believed. In that way, the past truly CAN change. There is healing in understanding that. xxoo

        Liked by 2 people

  8. A beautiful touch of personal identity. What a great way to tell the history of your family, to keep these memories alive. I particularly enjoyed looking at the pictures. Thanks for sharing, Karen.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. The telling of this story was so beautiful and generous to each role of the tapestry. I love the fact that you fill us in on some characters years after their introduction, showing how life can change and affect someone but the love stays amazingly consistent. Really loved it, thanks for sharing! I’m attempting to do similar things on my blog, but I’ve only just begun so any good vibes from a story-teller like you would be much appreciated! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Yeah, I’m with Anoinette on that last one, haha. This is so brilliant, Karen. I LOVE the idea of doing this for some of the interesting characters in my family. I have never heard that link to healing the past, and it’s so very cool…I know that’s something I’m going to hang onto and share with others. Family history is fascinating and to believe we’re still linked and connected – even after they’re long gone – well that’s the way I want it to be. Thank you, Michelle, for sharing Karen’s gem here!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Really enjoyed your post. It makes me want to find out more about my ancestry! In my immediate family only there are four diabetics — quite rare — I think the bumps and pokes are more or less caused by actual needles in my case! Haha!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. One thing I’ve discovered since the internet made researching families easier. Many family stories don’t stand up very well to facts. But usually the stories are more fun than the facts. I do wonder, though, why my grandfather many times removed and his three brothers joined with George Washington’s rebels to fight the British in Pennsylvania. No family stories have survived about this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d love to know why they did that too! It’s so rare to find written accounts of individual families that go back that far and important details get lost in the stories that are passed down. We’re lucky when we have a story to support the facts! As soon as a story stops being told it’s lost forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Holy mackerel! I’m so glad I hopped over here to read this. I know I’ve read a piece or more that you’ve posted, but I’ve GOT to read more. What got me first was when you talked about healing our lineage in both directions, and you weren’t sure this was actually so. And looking at life in a non-linear fashion. First, from my personal experience, we most certainly can heal our lineage in both directions. In fact, quite recently, I had a healing session that not only blew my mind, but created healing in every direction, because I know life to be an interconnected web/ tapestry. It literally created healing for me, my family here now, and my family who are dead and gone, back many generations (Dad, who passed away in 2012, popped in to express his thanks and say how impressed he was with what I did- and I can’t even consciously comprehend all of what shifted). I’m still processing what happened over a week ago. My deepest thanks to Michelle for this beautiful blog/ space.

    Like

      1. Just an FYI, when I try to go to your site, my virus scan software keeps giving me the message of malware detected, and blocks the site. It’s happened for a while, as I’ve tried to go there a few times. It might just be a Bitdefender false positive, but I wanted to let you know. I’ll be able to read your blog on my iPad though.

        Like

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