What’s in a Sixteenth?

As a child, I was fascinated by the fact that I was one sixteenth Chickasaw. I wasn’t sure what that meant even as I heard the story tracing the connection to my great-grandmother’s husband’s family. It gets complicated when we try to trace our heritage. I guess the child in me knew how silly it was, and the wonder in me wanted to know why we didn’t have the same information on the English, German, Danish, and Scotch-Irish ancestry. How much of each was I? I always wondered what the other fifteen sixteenths were:) I learned the why when mama explained it to me without meaning to. Mama was a beautiful woman, and her native heritage manifested itself in her features. Her mother, Lilly Belle, had a long braid down her back that she rolled into a bun each morning and untangled each night. She had even more of those native features that intrigued me.

Mother was angry after a visit to see daddy’s family. I realize now those visits were difficult for her because we only visited daddy’s family when we took our trips to the mountains. Visits to the Banning side were few and far between, and I know that hurt mama. I already told you how wonderful Granddaddy Holden was, but his wife Anna was nothing like him. She wanted children out of her sight and had no tolerance for their nonsense. She had been confined in a wheelchair as long as I knew her. She almost died when daddy was a young man, and the story goes that her hair turned snow white and she couldn’t walk after the illness. It left her a bitter woman, and her anger spilled over into the lives of those around her. I suppose that bitterness was at the root of the comment she made when she first laid eyes on me. Mama told me in her own anger that Anna took one look at me and declared that there was no colored blood on their side of the family. I’m not sure why mama told me what Anna said, but the more I learned about the world and its need to define and qualify, the more I understood. I knew why folks had kept track of how much of my blood was Chickasaw and why they weren’t as concerned about what those measurements were in regard to the ‘white’ blood.

I don’t know what it is to be discriminated against and surely cannot begin to imagine what those who have been and are endure. I am very proud of and thankful for all of my ancestors because they are part of who I am, and I have grown to love who I am.

Daddy hated that I always left my shoes by the door upon entering the house. It wasn’t out of courtesy, but because I had waited all day to get the hateful things off my feet. He would fuss about it constantly and tell me that my feet were the sixteenth of me that was Indian. I was glad about that and wished the rest of me was. I’ve always disliked clothing and shoes, but it had more to do with confinement than blood. My heart was in a cage, but my body didn’t have to be! As I grew older, I delved into Native American history and got carried away with the Battle of Little Big Horn and Custer’s last stand. I even wore my hair in braids and wore moccasins. Again, part of the fascination was surely that it was a way to irritate daddy. Another very real part was my desire to discover who I was.  I knew I was different; mama and daddy both agreed on that. Maybe it had something to do with the sixteenth that was Chickasaw.

We are all made of carbon, and our blood is one color, the same color as Christ’s precious blood that fell to the earth and seeped deeply into its very core. I do wish we all could embrace that color as the color we are and not have the need to qualify. It is so freeing to see my body as a beautiful creation and not worry so much about its ingredients. Can you imagine for a moment sitting down to a meal lovingly prepared by a world renowned chef and only thinking about the ingredients. I may want a recipe later so I could copy the creation, but I would never be able to. Try as I might, I cannot recreate that which has already been created. I cannot recapture a moment or even a delicious meal because the people with whom I share it and all the circumstances work together to create it. The world constantly tries to recreate God without success.  I’ve been trying to recreate myself my entire life. I’m happy to be in a place where I love myself just as I am. We sang that hymn today, and it was a beautiful blessing. The message from Mark 7:1-23 was “What’s in Your Heart.” It really is the only thing that matters, and God blessed me as I heard the message and sang the sweet hymn.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that God doesn’t need for me to recreate me or Him. It’s best to be still and enjoy what He’s already prepared and not worry about the how. (no pun intended:)

Author: Gigi

I taught middle school for 33 years and retired in 2007. I'm enjoying my journey and loving the time I have with my three granddaughters who call me "Gigi." I want to share my journey with them and with anyone else interested in sharing the lessons God has for me on this amazing journey.

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