I met Audrey Esquivel at a writing workshop at the Mixed Remixed Festival earlier this year and our paths crossed again at a reading back in the Bay Area. When she shared a family photo on Facebook it seemed the ideal subject for a blogpost. So I asked her to use the photo as a writing prompt and here’s the result.–Clare R.
Text by Audrey Esquivel:
The year is most likely 1976, as I seem to be around 2 years old. We are standing in front of the townhouse where my brother and I lived with our parents in Oceanside, California. I have on my church dress and gloves, so the photo was taken on a Sunday, probably just after returning from Sunday morning mass.
It was the first, and maybe the only, time my father’s dad, Grandpa Rueben, flew in an airplane. Dad’s parents lived in Harvey, Illinois just outside of Chicago. Once Grandma Flora said she was going, Grandpa Reuben got over his fear of flying rather quickly.
My mother’s parents, Granma Dot (aka Granny) and Grandpa Joe, had recently immigrated to the US from Burma and were visiting us after driving up from San Diego where they were living with my Aunt Rita and her family.
This picture is meaningful to me for many different reasons. My brother and I are the only two people in this picture who are still alive. This is the only picture of my brother and I with all four of our grandparents.
However, what stands out most to me when I look at this picture is that it captures and represents the full extent of my knowledge of my father’s family lineage.
As I go through my mother’s family photo albums I uncover pictures that were taken in the 1800s. There are photographs of my mother with her grandmother, of her grandmother as a young woman, of her grandmother as a baby, even photos of my great-great-great grandparents. There are also written records of my mother’s family tree dating back several generations to when her European ancestors first arrived in Burma.
As for my father’s heritage, I know that my Grandma Flora’s maiden name was Whitaker and they were from Arkansas. In terms of tracing the roots of my African-American family tree, that is all I know.