Ors Jacques was my paternal great grandfather. He was half African and half French/Canadian and somehow made his way down south and fell in love with my paternal great grandmother from Birmingham, Al., Willa Mae. Together they had six children and found their way to Omaha, Nebraska where they reared them and the majority of their families still reside. She was his second wife.
I’ve always had this strong fetter with the south and have been fascinated with the simplistic beauty of rural life. Us city folk buy nicely crafted flower pots and arrange them for balance in our yards and porches. We re-fresh our curio cabinets with the seasons new symmetrically cut vases and treasured memoirs from recent travels. And we call it home.
The homes on the rural back road yards are decorated with rotary mowers that stopped in that very spot some 40 years ago and now house the annual bloom of black eyed susans in April. A garden of fall vegetables grow in the back yard near the separated garage every year. The porch houses coffee cans of “particularly” favorite flowers such as tulips and mums. The chipped paint on the homes reveal their age just as the rings on an oak tree. And then there are the songs, and sometimes screams, that command the wind. These and the trees. Church bakes and the lakes. Wooded water pales and old wives tales. I’m finding pleasure in tracing my family tree.
My great grandfathers’ family has been traced from Wivelsfield, England to Canada to Iowa to Alabama to Nebraska. And it was easy to go back as far as the 1700’s to find them. I look forward to finding when the name changed from Jacques to Jakes. It appears to have happened somewhere from Iowa to Alabama. Now my great grandmother… I can’t get past her mother in 1892. Where does she come from? Did she know? That is why that rural part of me loves the south. Because there is so much to learn and hear. And imagine. Turning the dirt is like shaking a bag of bones to tell your fortune or in most cases, explain your past.
I have a covenant to write of the south to encourage people of color to speak a resolve within themselves of not knowing where and who. While many probably don’t even think of it, I believe this is a part of our psychological warfare that effects our mental health. While I will continue to trace my family in England, I will also continue my love for the rural south and listen for the voices of my families names of Nash, Michaels, Browns, Clays, Curtles and Mills.