Saturday, January 05, 2008

A new year...

Isn't it great to gather together with kith and ken 'round a twinkly light adorned New England Spruce, everyone wearing mock turtlenecks and cute sweatshirts with funny santa clauses and raindeer puff painted on them, sipping nog and singing carols from the days of yore? That's what I love most about Christmas. Well, I also love presents. And trains. (and Christmas PJ's!)

This year we boarded a jet plane and headed west to see the fam. Family is funny isn't it? It's funny how a holiday trip home to celebrate the Savior's birth can dispel so many childhood illusions. This year I experienced a little bit of that.

Since I was about 7 years old I've believed that my great, great grandfather was a mighty Cherokee Chief. I believed that because that's what I was told. My mom said that it was clear from our high cheek bones. When I was young I would tell other kids about my Cherokee lineage and often embellish when detailing what exactly a Cherokee Chief does (mostly scalping people like crazy). When I was older and people would ask about my ethnic heritage I would say something like, "Some mixed European and Cherokee; I'm 1/32nd." Now everything has changed.

The story for years was that my great grandmother (full blooded-Cherokee, of course) had been sold off her reservation to a white man because her family was desperately in need of money - she was traded for some beaver pelts or something. Anyway, this first white man had abused her and treated her badly when she was young, and eventually left her. Several years later she met and married my great grandfather (another white man and a bull rider by trade). They loved each other dearly and had a happy marriage.

Upon pressing my mom and grandmother for further details this year, I found their stories to be spotty and mostly in contradiction - punctuated with a lot of "well"s and "uh"s. It turns out that somewhere along the way their stories had gotten quite confused and exaggerated. It was comical to watch the two of them defend their position which had gone unchallenged for so long. They didn't really know a darned thing about this lady or where she came from! But it was also heart wrenching. My cultural identity has been stripped. Who am I, really? I've been living a lie!

Another thing: my bull riding great grandfather had a second job that I didn't know about. He "worked the monkey pit at the public park in Blackwell, Ok." Now, don't get me wrong, working the monkey pit is an honorable trade and I'm very proud of him. But it's quite different than the picture of a grizzled Clint Eastwood type traveling the country with giant glimmering belt buckles that I had always imagined.

What's the moral here? Easy. Don't believe anything your parents tell you.

Happy New Year!
The Hennighausen Fam (not the Cherokees)

Katy and her bag of sweet roasted almonds A traditional Cherokee Christmas head dress
Working the Kitchen (Mom, Travis, Grandmom)

Rose/ Harper Family opening presentsPlaying games with Marc and Mason