Our parents’ parents and before,
Who may have lived on distant shores,
They root our lives in memories;
We’re nourished by their histories.
In my twenties, I did a lot of phone work at my first job out of college. A couple of people I talked to by phone asked where I was originally from.
Me: California. I’m a proud native!
Them: No, you have a slight accent. You must be from somewhere else.
Me: Well, my family of origin hails from Colorado. I am a first-generation Californian.
Them: Yes! That’s it! Are you Spanish?
Little did they know that my physical features were far from my Spanish background: fair skin, freckles, red hair, light eyes—so very Irish!
Fast forward ten years when my husband got an opportunity to relocate with his then Silicon Valley-based company to Colorado.
I had always heard about my roots from Mom and Dad, but the stories really did not come alive for me until I actually lived in this beautiful Rocky Mountain state.
Born and raised in California, I never knew what I was missing. I mean, there were always our summer road trips to visit family in Colorado, but they were mere visits, just passing through.
I didn’t really immerse myself in my family heritage until I settled in Colorado, and only then did my childhood stories came back to me with full force. Stories like:
My father growing up on the dry plains of Brighton during the Great Depression with my feisty paternal grandmother from whom I inherited my freckles and dimples.
My mother living near the family ranches in Trinidad where the local hospital is named after her very own grandfather.
My maternal great-great grandfather’s portrait residing so prominently in the Golden Dome of the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, along with 15 other founding fathers of Colorado like Kit Carson. My mother’s great grandfather was known as The Perpetual Senator, serving 40 years for the state and passing a law to translate government documentation into Spanish.
In the photo to the right: The far left is Sofia, my great grandmother, and next to her is Casimiro, my great-great grandfather.
My paternal grandfather starting out in the wild-wild-west-style mining town of Leadville, considered the “highest city in the U.S.” and home to the infamous Baby Doe Silver Mine.
My second cousin working as a longtime popular journalist for the Rocky Mountain News.
And on and on.
My family history is so rich here in Colorado, on both sides of the family tree. The roots go very deep. I am curious about everything to do with my ancestry, perhaps for the first time in my life.
I am home now. And the healing of old wounds has begun, which is something I wasn’t even aware of until I moved here.
We do stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. I absolutely know that experientially now.
Let the journey continue!
Juli Arnold-Kole is an animal advocate, writer/editor, former ballet dancer and sometime trickster, based in Boulder.
~Editor: Mel Squarey