What is Heritage?

Recently I was visited by an Uncle and Aunt and that spurred a train of thought. I realized that on my Mother’s side of the family two of my uncles are strongly involved in our Norwegian heritage with one as editor for a broadly distributed newsletter for folks of Northern Norwegian origins and the other representing the Sons of Norway organization for either a city or part of the province they live in.

One of my Cousins works for a newspaper and another has a column in that newsletter my Uncle produces. I have edited a newsletter for a medieval recreation society in the past as well as my current position on the board of directors for a heritage society that runs a local museum. I have an article recently published in a weekly newspaper with provincial distribution.

My Mother and her Sister both collect keepsakes from the past — especially items of family significance. Some items trace one side of the family others the other side. Some items come from Norway and other items reflect their life in Long Island in Southern Alberta.

Now where am I going with this… My Grandfather always was talking about the heritage of Alberta and there was always an interest in family history and our relatives still in Norway and our Norwegian heritage. Grandpa also told us of his life and work experience. I believe it instilled an interest in heritage that really took in his children. Grandma also instilled a respect for heritage, perhaps in a quieter way. She was one to collect keepsakes and had her own stories, though I truly wish I knew more.

I think that Mom’s Parents really instilled an interest in heritage in the family. Perhaps not with trips to museums, but by the sharing of our past and sharing their interest.

On my Father’s side of the family I also gained much in my interest in heritage. It was a different direction from Mom’s side. At get-togethers there would always be time around the table, in the parlour, in the milk shed, the dairy barn, in the fields, in the car… to share and talk about what happened recently and through their lives.

There was always another story to tell. I know some I heard quite a few times, but some were new. They weren’t epic tales, just events from lives that were memorable for one reason or another. More often than not they would bring a smile. Perhaps just a smile of recollection, but sometimes of cheer and humour.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but this was story telling. I grew up among a family of story tellers. It was just that it was normal and a natural thing to do. I can remember at a very young age listening to Dad and how he would say “John said this” and “I said that” and “Jane asked that” and how that fit into what Dad was saying to tell what had happened. Dialogue added to the story and was a part of what was being related.

Both sides of the family were quite different in many ways, but both helped develop an interest in heritage in me and a desire to share that.

I know I am lucky to have come from a fairly healthy family situation and had two sets of grandparents with a number of aunts, uncles and cousins. Many people come from quite different backgrounds and many were not nearly as happy. But despite problems, what positive things might you have gained from your roots? Your roots might just be the cities and towns you grew up in, of course.

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