Monday, March 16, 2009

We've Come a Long Way

I was thinking the other day about my great grandparents. I'm fortunate enough to know the names of each of my great grandparents, and some of what they did.

I realized that out of the four sets of great grandparents, all four were subsistence farmers. That is, if you count raising chickens as subsistence farming. If not, two were farmers, one worked for a factory. (As an aside, my cousin chanson has two posts about one side of the family, with the family history label here; one about moonshine, the other about some of the family independence). With the fourth set, I can't remember what my great grandpa did for a living. I know his wife owned and managed properties near the end of her life.

The point of all this is that some days I marvel at the amount and variety of choices that I have.

If I had been born a hundred or so years ago as a woman, my choices would have been greatly diminished. I would probably be the wife of a farmer. I would probably not have been able to go to college - finishing high school would have been considered successful. There's a good chance that my hereditary poor eyesight would not have been treated.

Of my four sets of great grandparents, the smallest family had three children. The largest had nine surviving to adulthood. I would have probably had some number of children in between.

Only one set of my great grandparents divorced. I'm not sure why they divorced exactly, although I'm suspicious it had something to do with mental illness and/or addiction (both of which were rarely treated at the time).

I would have gone to church each Sunday, as that's what people did. All sets of grandparents were religious- to one degree or another. Two sets of my great grandparents were mormon, one set was Ukrainian Orthodox.

I know some of my friends have to make some hard choices in the coming months. The nature of those choices vary. I'm sure I will have to make difficult choices in the future, although perhaps not as soon.

Some days the infinite nature of possibilities can be overwhelming. But on my good days, I remember just how fortunate I am to be able to choose. To not be stuck on the farm or in a bad marriage with many children I couldn't feed.

Now, I'm not suggesting that all lives or realities were this way, just that many might have been. It's good to remember just how far we've come.

3 comments:

Kathryn said...

Good to remember indeed. Thanks for the reminder; it's exactly what I needed today.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Great point!

Aerin said...

Thanks Kathryn - glad you appreciated it.

Thanks FFG.