Sunday, February 5, 2012

Putting Things in Perspective: Coal Miners, Bakers, HR & Yoga

Black History Month has me thinking about my family's history. History is important.

I have always identified most with the Polish-Catholic Dryzga side of my family. My dad's side of the family loves to have big celebrations with family and friends. Three generations bake Polish Coffee Cake and create big, beautiful gardens (Grandpa, Dad and me). We get emotional about everything, smile and are loud in most social situations. I love my family. My husband and I stopped by my Grandparents' house on the way back home to Lansing from our weekend trip to Tawas. My Grandma was a homemaker and my Grandpa worked for Dow Chemical and served in WWII. A recent TV show on geneology prompted me to ask about what my GREAT grandparents did for a living.

My Great Grandpa (Grandma's side) worked in management at a crane factory in Bay City. My Great Grandma was a homemaker and pressed clothes to make extra money for the family.
My Great Grandpa (Grandpa's side) came over on a boat from Poland to Ellis Island. He was a farmer and listed his skill as a "butcher". He worked in Cleveland as a butcher for a few years before coming up to Bay City to work in the coal mines. Apparently, there were coal mines in Bay City and Auburn and Unionville! My Great Grandma was a homemaker. She also rolled cigars in small shops in Bay City. My Great Grandpa developed black lung disease and died because of it.

I'm the great grandaughter of a coal miner. Whoa. This may not sound like much, but, it means a lot to me to know exactly what my family has done and gone through so that I can live and breathe as I do today.

My mother's side is the Bissonnette family. They are French-Canadian. My Grandmother was a nurse and my Grandfather, in addition to serving in WWII and being a sharp shooter, did many odd jobs to keep the family going. He cut blocks of ice out of the bay for people's ice boxes (pre-refrigerators, we still have one at my parents' house), sold pots and pans door to door and did a lot of general handyman things. They had eight children.

My Great Grandpa (Grandpa's side) isn't someone we talk about much. What I do know is that he had alcohol problems during the Great Depression and he spent all of the family's money on his habit. He then left my Great Grandma by herself with her children. My Great Grandma worked as a nurse and ran a bakery out of her home. She baked molasses cookies, sugar cookies and bread and my Grandpa took his little red wagon and sold it door-to-door in the morning before he went off to school. The baking gene runs deep. To my knowledge, my Great Grandpa and Grandma (Grandma's side) were farmers up in Greenbush.

Because of all the things my family has done and sacrified, I'm alive. I get to have a job, live in a city and state I love, go for walks in the woods, practice yoga, grow a garden, cook and bake, spend quality time with my husband and pursue a yoga teacher certification, among many other things.

My mom's response to "what is your purpose in life" was to say that her children are her purpose in life. At the time, I didn't understand what she meant. I understand a bit more now. I'm lucky to do the things I'm doing because of the sacrifices that have been made and the gifts that have been given by my family members before me. I'm the product of farming, butchering, coal mining, ice cutting, baking, nursing and more. I'm lucky enough to have a home, to spend time with incredible family and friends, to work with people for a great local company AND get to practice and, soon, teach this awesome thing called yoga.

Yeah, I'm blessed and grateful and happy to have every breath. Life is beautiful.

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