Wednesday, May 28, 2014


As I have intimated, I was in the Texas Hill Country over the Memorial Day weekend, visiting family. Really, it was a chance for my wonderful wife and I to show Ms. 8 to some of her families who had not yet gotten to meet her; as such, it was a good trip to have taken. Ms. 8 needs to know who she comes from and where her people come from, and I imagine that there will be many more such trips in the future.

The idea reminds me that I am not as up on my own background as I perhaps ought to be; there is much in my family history of which I am unaware. There is much else to which I have been exposed that I have forgotten, letting it pass by me or thinking that I would have a chance to ask again later and finding that it has never come again. There have been some few attempts to reach out and claim that history (problematic as it may be, given the broader social contexts in which it has been enmeshed), and some of them have yielded results I have set down where Ms. 8 may be able to read them someday. (I say "may" because the atrocious state of my pen-hand is well known among my family and my students.) Not all have, though, and I have to think that the limits on my own experience preclude me from asking some of the questions that could be asked to great effect.

Some of that will be endemic to the human condition, certainly; we are all of us limited, and those limits prevent us from seeing some of the gaps that exist. When we are within those gaps ourselves, they become harder to recognize as gaps; the allegory of the cave comes to mind to suggest that we can only with difficulty perceive those limits which are long placed upon us, that when our restrictions are intrinsic to our worldview, they do not appear as restrictions. I like to think that I have been able to turn around in the cave a bit, even if I am still in chains and have yet to feel the warmth of the sun upon my face. But even that small glimpse of light has shown me that there is much I do not know--much my daughter will need to know but that I cannot teach her.

How fortunate I am--that Ms. 8 is--that there are people who will happily account for the gaps in my knowledge and expertise, people who will tell her the stories that inform her familial backgrounds and who will show her what she needs to see that I cannot see! For that is a kind of privilege, as well, that she and I are able to know our families at all, and one not shared by as many people as ought to be the case. But it is one that I think may be exercised without much in the way of guilt...

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