I was once given a Cherokee medicine stick by a woman. I gave it power, because it gave me power. I was Cherokee. I was special. That infinitesimal amount was enough to make me feel connected to something earthly and sacred, a tribe of my very own. I belonged.
I am only child, Einselkind, a lone wolf, a gang of exactly one. Because I’m also a military brat, I did a lot of hello-goodbye-hello-ing. I had a lot of lonely days, but being Cherokee gave me a connection, a talking point, roots—a tribe. A history.
Yet I often longed for someone to sit with at the lunch table on those lonely first days of school. A sibling would have been nice.
I used to crave siblings so badly that every Christmas I wrote Santa, begging for an older brother. Not just any older brother, but the one from the mid-80s Folger’s Coffee Christmas commercials. He wore a striped rugby shirt and a scarf, looking preppy and young man-ish. You know the one… He’s coming home from college, sneaks in early one morning to his perfectly decorated Cape Cod-style home and brews coffee that delicately fills the whole house with the nuanced, magical scent of Folger’s, permeating every inch with a decadent warmth and love. There was a little sister in the commercial and I wanted to be her. I imagined how much he’d love me, give me all sorts of advice, and let me hang out in his room while he dished all about college life. I dreamed of what he was studying, how he smelled. It was my fantasy, to have a brother with whom to bond, and complain about my mom and dad.
(I married a man with three brothers. I take back some of my wishes for siblings. Ha! Be careful what you ask for. Moving on…)
I lamented my loneliness to my parents, and they let me know I had many people close to me, they just weren’t “living.” (I see what they did there.) So I forced myself to own and even be proud of the family gone before me: a confederate soldier in the historical landscape (not that I like the side he fought for, but it’s still a unique story); Great Aunt Ida, who was an electric chair lady (I’m just going to let you think on that one for a spell. Yes, she was a circus act); my great-great grandfather who was kicked out of the state of Arkansas because his gun accidentally went off in a saloon (evidently, concealed carry was illegal back then… who knew? After the incident he packed up Grandma Maggie and their handmade bread bowl, and moved to Texas. Guns were welcome there); and finally, I had Cherokee blood in me.
Wow. Now that was special.
I remember the day my father phoned with news for me: I was no longer Cherokee.
Poof. Just like that, a piece of my identity disappeared.
My father had DNA testing performed to see what his ancestry contained. There was no Cherokee. Not a drop. Never was. A family story my father was even raised to believe. I didn’t have a tribe any longer. Mic drop. It actually knocked the wind out of me, and I struggled to say I love you before getting off the phone.
I was angry, as if this had been done to me personally. It wasn’t. I started examining my life, and really thinking about the tribes I do belong to. I may not be a Cherokee, but I do belong to other groups. I took to social media, to a private group to whine about something. The ladies are all military brats.
Wait… I am, too.
Hold on a minute… they are a tribe. I am similar to them. We don’t see one another on the regular; (in fact, there are a couple I’ve not seen since high school graduation in Germany).
I am a military brat. The brat tribe is huge and special and proud. We live around the world, and we bloom where we are planted. And likely if you have ever met one, they are gregarious, adaptable, and strong.
I am a mom. Wow. Now there’s a tribe. When you become a mother, there’s a piece of your soul that never stops crying, and that is universal. We raise humanity, we celebrate love and experience unimaginable pain at the same time. We have the strength of an ant, and the perseverance of a cheetah. We protect, nurture, and manage to do so with grace and sometimes good hair (we drink a lot of wine too!).
I am a mompreneur; a mom who owns and cultivates her own business, to help the family, to gain sanity from the laundry, to raise awareness of something bigger than ourselves. That takes sweat equity, love beyond measure, and an inhuman capability to manage 422 tasks at one time, again, while wearing mascara and serving something resembling homemade for dinner (sometimes!). Show me a mompreneur, and I’ll show you a superhero.
Okay, so I’m not Cherokee. Pity party over. It was something I thought I’d passed down to my own children. However, I’m swimming in tribes! I don’t need identity running through my veins to connect me. I do not need a sibling. I do not need to rely on family history alone to feel grounded.
I can reach my hand out and somewhere, there will be many hands awaiting my grasp. It may be virtual, over the phone, over wine, at a meeting… but it’s there. I am not alone. I am never alone. For that matter, neither are you.
(Incidentally, the genetic mapping indicated that there is Icelandic heritage. You know what this means? I’m related to every Icelandic now!)