People talk about family trees and study their branches and their leaves. Lately I’ve been thinking about family roots, strong, sturdy and grounded deep within rich, nourishing soil. These roots supported each tree in my bloodline, those that lived long and strong with rings that counted more than 95 years and those that were felled in the greener days of their youth. I grew up with a landscape of trees surrounding me, thanks to my grandparents and their 14 children. At home were my mother, father and sister and nearby were aunts and uncles and their spouses and the many cousins born into my generation.
There were mighty oaks in my bloodline; I only needed to glance at them to feel safe. There were willows that showed me how to lean into change and accept life’s mysteries. There were other trees, one who coaxed out my talents and passions, one who made me feel special by simply calling me “Dolly,” one who made me proud when she called me the daughter she never had. We were all nurtured by the company of our family, whether at Sunday dinners or during the summers we shared down the Jersey shore. My family taught me about love in more ways than I can count and for this, I’m forever grateful.
In my mind’s eye, I’d often imagine sitting on a carpet of pine needles, surrounded by the landscape of my family trees. Now, so many years later, my mind sees a forest so barren that my eyes wander easily to the horizon, to the unknown that waits for me there. They say a family gives you wings, as well as roots, but these days my wings feel too heavy to lift me, damp as they are with my tears.
I’m sure spirits live forever and the love that I’ve shared with my family is eternal. My life has taught me that when I need strength most, it can come from the departed and the pieces of them that reside within me. I’ve experienced grief so often I know it’s twists and turns all too well. I know this weightless feeling will pass and I’ll become grounded again in my own life’s journey. But today, the endless horizon stretches so far before me that I’m not sure if I can take the first step.
Dedicated to my mother, Linda Ciccarelli Sanno.