Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Family, hometowns and the collective unconscious, sort of

I am not related to Carl Jung. But his July 26 birthday coincides with our family reunion, which has happened for 62 years in a row. So maybe he is an honorary cousin. Or at least, for me, a kindred cousin.

I like to look at Jung and family through a kind of prism that reflects each back on the other. This idiosyncratic lens extends Jung's idea of the collective unconscious and the genes/DNA that is passed through generations by your family and then adds a dash of Native American shamanism. What I end up with is this in-the-bones in-the-soul connection to family that you can both know and feel the presence of your ancestors.

Now, I'm not a new age guy. Not trying to go woo-woo on you. But when we are at a family reunion and I see our girls running and playing, swimming, it takes me back to being their ages and doing the same thing off World Farms Road at my Great Aunt Harriett McCord's house. I can see my grandfather and his generation in the same way Anna and Ava see my father. They call him "Grandaddy," the same name we used for his dad.

It's a little more than that. On Sunday the girls and I were at the Oxford (Md.) Park. I played at that park when I was little (and older), as did my dad. His father attended school on that same ground. If I sit there quietly and let my mind drift, I get caught in thinking how many generations of our family have walked that same ground. The small town of Oxford feels like sacred ground, when I frame it that way.

After a weekend that included our Parson's family reunion and a shoreline-exploring, ice cream-eating trip to the Oxford Park, I asked the girls if they wanted to swing by the Oxford Cemetery, so see where my Grandaddy and his wife, and others in our family were buried. They did. They hadn't been there before and I hadn't been there in some time.

We found and read my grandparents', the girls' great grandparents, who they never met, head stones. My grandmother died a couple months before I turned four, but I can see her clear as day--when I would walk in their house, she would pretend to be "The Terrible Tickler," a favorite character from a Sesame Street book I liked. I called her "Me-me." She was my dad's and aunt's mother, my grandfather's second wife, after he lost his first wife and baby during childbirth. Though he was a good bit older than Me-me, he lived almost 20 years longer and is who I think of when I think of fishing or being on a boat on the Chesapeake Bay. These were/are pictures and thoughts in my head just upon seeing their graves.

The girls and I walked further. We saw another relative, Doug Hanks, Sr., who I knew as "Pop," my cousin Dougie's grandfather and an otherworldly log canoe sailor. As we walked the cemetery, as when we played in the park, I had the real sense that I was comprised of these people, this place, our girls. That is, until the girls started to moan about how hot it was.

But they thought it was cool. On our way out of the cemetery, we saw a heron on the shore, which is another story. When we got home, they ran in and told Robin about the cemetery, the park, the Scottish Highland Creamery. The reunion still swam through all our heads. They don't need Jung or his collective unconscious to understand family and place. I guess I don't either. But I'm always trying to frame or get my head around the things that excite me. The things I'm made of.

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