Tuesday, June 14, 2011

For Jocelyn

Dear Jocelyn,

Welcome to Oklahoma.  At this time when you are just discovering your hands and the faces, sounds, and smells of those who love you it seems perhaps a little silly to tell you who you are and about this state of which you have just become a part. But I am your grandfather and I think you will forgive me if I have become a little silly at just the reality of your very existence.  As we are all, you have just become a part of something so much bigger than yourself and this is really my way of reflecting on the wondrous way you have come to be.  This Oklahoma is a patchwork of leftovers and smaller pieces of states and territories.  It really did not begin its existence as anything more than a place of refuge for tribes of Native People displaced by the encroachment of settlers in the east.  They were pushed to Indian Territory along what came to be called The Trail of Tears.  It was a terrible hardship that forever changed and shaped the tribes that endured it.  One of those tribes was the Cherokee.  If family lore is correct and I have no reason to believe it is not, you share the heritage of the Cherokee through your Great Great Great Grandmother, Emma Jane Ford Stahl.  By now your Cherokee blood is greatly diluted but even the small portion that courses through your veins links you to those who made that arduous journey and I hope gives you an appreciation for their contribution to the person that you are and the person you shall become.  Grandmother Emma Jane did not make the journey to Indian Territory but, through us and you, she has joined her people in this land.  In the late 1800s, Oklahoma Territory was opened to settlement through a series of land runs and lotteries.  The prospects of land ownership and freedom burned in the hearts and blood of people worldwide who came to Oklahoma seeking new lives and new opportunities.  Italians came to work the mines of southeastern Oklahoma.  Czechs, Germans, and Poles settled the hills and plains of central Oklahoma.  All-Black towns sprang up as former slaves and the children of slaves made new beginnings.  This patchwork state became a patchwork of human diversity, much like you.
From your ancestors you inherit English, German, Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian bloodlines that date back centuries to the Black Forest region of Germany, the cold climes of Scandinavia, and the British Isles, and from your Cherokee roots, the eastern United States.  This is your genetic makeup.  There is much more to you, of course, than your genes. From your father, I hope you inherit his compassion, and his brilliant and artistic mind.  From your mother, I hope you inherit her kind and loving spirit, and her devotion to caring for others.  Your name is Jocelyn Meadow because of your parents' desire to connect you to something green, beautiful, and lasting.  The world is your meadow right now.  You are the result of a caldron of swirling chance and opportunity that brought you to this place in time; more miracle than chance, probably.  You do not know yet that your parents were born in the same hospital and they would not have been if at least one each of your grandparents had not somehow found their way to Oklahoma.  This is not a story entirely exclusive to you.  I know that there are so many similar stories out there but these forces that brought you here bind us all together-all of us-as we make our way through this world.  Oklahoma is no better than its people and as you become a part of it I can not wait to see what you will make of it.  You do not feel the weighty responsibility of it yet so I will delight in the lighter things; watching you grow, telling you stories, taking you fishing, and showing you the wonders of this land that is your home.  It will be the best job I have ever had or ever will.
With love,

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