A few days ago I went on the coolest field trip. My cousin and I did a family history tour. We explored the places that were important to his parents and my parents and our grandparents. I loved meeting some of the extended family that I'd seen before on zoom, and I loved being in the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. I have a new satisfaction from this physical connection. Being able to feel the summer sun and the dust on my feet, these are part of finding my roots.
This journey actually began sixteen years ago. Rewind the clock and I was super pregnant with baby #2 when my dad's dad passed away. Of course I was too pregnant to travel, so I missed the services. Years went by, and the time finally came when I thought I'd go pay my respects to them in Colorado. I have good memories of my Grandma and Grandpa Bare living there when they were older. So of course it seemed natural to find the little cemetery by their house, where they'd be buried. I drove the eight hours from our home in Utah, across the mountains, to a little town in the Denver area. I went straight to the cemetery and took two steps forward, when the thought came to me, 'You'd better go ask your aunt where to go, you won't be able to find them without her help.' So I went inside the house and chatted with her, only to realize that they were buried in KANSAS not Colorado. Well. At least I tried.
Fast forward a bunch more years, and finally the time is right and I decide to make my way to Kansas. This time I enlisted the help of my cousin Mark, knowing that he'd know where to go and I could lean on his knowledge and connections in the midwest.
I set out early in the morning, leaving Texas when it was dark. At the Oklahoma state line, I was greeted with the old familiar sight of casinos all over the place. Remember Nevada was my home for a while too? So seeing all the casinos was super fun.
Stopping in this little town just made me smile.
Around sunrise, I met up with Mark in Oklahoma City. He showed me photos of the tornado that tore through his neighborhood a few years back. Then we began driving north. The main destination was a cemetery, but there were other cool stops along the way.
We spent some time in Wichita and appreciated the Native American history. I love the wooden carvings on this totem pole.
Cool bridge architecture, and a restaurant with a nostalgic past. Mark told me that one time for Grandpa's birthday, they bought a dozen burgers from NuWay and he was SO happy. I think the fries and onion rings there were pretty amazing.
After Wichita, we continued on our journey, eventually finding the cemetery in the middle of nowhere. This next photo shows a grave marker with an open Bible on the top. I love that so much. Also notice the lichen and mossy stuff growing on the sides of the stone.
I love the detail on the following two photos. Look at how there's a flower motif carved into the stone. I wish I could tell what the cursive script said at the base of the memorial.
(I'm not sharing specific photos of the tombstones of my family members here. If you're related to me and are interested in seeing them, please send an email and I will share them privately.) But if you want to hear my favorite song about a cemetery, go here
for Sara Bareilles' song called Chasing the Sun.
Apparently the state flower of Kansas is the wild sunflower. AND that happens to be my sister's favorite flower.
After talking to Mark's mom on the phone, she reminded us that there are some cousins living nearby. So we called and when they didn't answer, we decided to be wild and crazy and approach one of the houses uninvited. "Do they shoot people on sight around here?" we wondered aloud. Thankfully, the answer is no. Genevieve and Larry and Tammy were welcoming and kind. It was fun to finally meet in person after seeing them occasionally on the cousins' zoom meeting. What a lovely way to spend some time in the afternoon.
Our last stop was in Stillwater. I finally made it to Eskimo Joe's and the food was delicious. I love this town. What an awesome bonus to meet up here and share a meal with my cousin's daughter. Love you Paige!
So to sum things up, it was an amazing day where I learned new things and connected with some really wonderful people and old places. I'm so glad for a day to remember my heritage, and to appreciate the past. This is me waving to y'all. If you haven't done something like this yet, don't worry. When the time is right, you'll find your way to your own metaphorical family tree. For now, I'll appreciate my roots and the connection to my grandparents and loved ones. Also, I need to thank my cousin Mark one more time, for being the best driver, listener, lemonade finder, and cemetery explorer.
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Love your "Roots" journal, Kristina, and others you've written on your blog, as well. You're a great and thoughtful writer. I think it is a Bare thing as your grandparents and the "Three Bares" all enjoy sharing their thoughts.... I'm so happy Mark was able to take you to Kansas and so glad you got to meet Genevieve and Larry & Tammy and share Eskimo Joe's with Paige... Love you lots, Aunt LindaReplyDelete
Thanks Linda, for the support and encouragement in my writing and over the phone. I hadn't thought of that before, but you're right: so glad your folks took time to write their history. I'm so grateful for Mark's help this day, and for time in Kansas and Oklahoma. Love you too!Delete
Kristy, I love this! ❤️ReplyDelete
Jeff and I would love photos of the family graves that you explored. Will you text or email them to me?
Hi Stephanie, thanks for leaving me a comment! That's awesome. I'm finally going through my phone today and will send a bunch of photos soon. Love you Stephanie!Delete