In Search of My Roots

Growing up a military brat, I always lamented my lack of “roots”.  I often dreamed of being Opie Taylor, living in idyllic Mayberry or George Bailey, suffering through life in Bedford Falls.  Connections, shared memories of living in one place all my life, surrounded by family and neighbors who were just like family, I yearned for all of it.

As an adult, I realize the experiences I gained from my nomadic upbringing prepared me well for the real world and I wouldn’t now trade my youth for anything.  Yeah, I know, with age comes wisdom.  Yet, I still always wondered: what if?

Last weekend, my husband and I dragged our two kids (and the one extra child we’d taken to the beach with us) to the 47th Annual Lane family reunion in picturesque Marion, South Carolina.  My maternal grandfather, Paul Lane was one of nine children born in the early 1900s to Sampson and Roma Lane.  While my grandfather left home to make his fortune in that other country known as New York City, many of his siblings stayed put and raised their families within miles of the Old Ebenezer Methodist Church—a congregation that dates back to 1731—where the reunion was held.

I’d only been to one other Lane family reunion and that was as a young girl my daughter’s age.  Needless to say, it took some courage to walk into a room full of strangers. I was waiting for my feelings of “rootlessness” to overwhelm me.

Only that feeling never came.

Instead, I was embraced by a room full of people I’d only met once or twice before in my lifetime—and even then it was decades ago.  It was as if I’d been there all along, a part of the sprawling family tree—now practically a forest—of Lane’s who celebrated my accomplishments and hugged my children as if they’d seen them only last week.  I wasn’t the long-lost Yankee cousin. They reminded me I was a South Carolinian by birth—a quirk of serendipity that had my father stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. when I was born.

We gathered in the church annex for pot luck and socializing and I was reminded that families are the bedrock that holds this country together.  The reunion was opened with a rousing chorus of America the Beautiful followed by Amazing Grace and a devotional prayer.  Then lots of good food.  All of it homemade.

After lunch (or dinner as it’s referred to in the true South) my cousin, Cathy, took my family on a tour of the small family cemetery nestled behind the single room, original church a few miles away. It was built in 1856 and added to the National Register in 1973.  (The congregation met in a log cabin for the first hundred and twenty-five years.)

Here’s the marker for my great-grandparents who started it all.Sampson Lane

This is my grandfather.Paul Lane

Being the deep South, it’s only natural to have a Confederate soldier buried there.confederate tombstone

So I had the family history after all; the connections and the roots I’d been wishing for all along.  I’m proud to be a part of such an historic family that documents and celebrates its heritage.

Does your family gather for reunions?  What special things do you do at those reunions?


About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at

Posted on August 2, 2013, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. My husband’s family has reunions quite often, but my mom and dad’s family never has to my knowledge. The one I’ve been to on my husband’s side was as you said: full of delicious homemade food and lots of people who were very welcoming to us strangers. It is a nice tradition and it does make you feel a part of something larger. What a fantastic experience you had! And here I thought you were lounging on the beach the whole time…

  2. My grandmother on one side research part of her lineage back beyond the Mayflower and wrote a geneology book.

    My younger sister on the other side is the DAR potentate. Sometimes I’d like to be more of a tumbleweed and less root-y.

  3. Such a great story, Tracy. We don’t have much family left in the sense that the “old ones” have passed on and our family wasn’t that huge in the first place. People are scattered all over the place and there has been dissension in the family as well – which reduces the size of gatherings because so and so doesn’t want to be around so and so. But, we are the house where Thanksgiving and Christmas are held so we still have about 8 or so of us who celebrate together and now there are “little ones” coming up behind us. I’m glad for that.

  4. My mother’s family use to do a gather on “Decoration” days at the cemeteries where our family members are buried. After going to decorate graves at the cemetery we would gather at my aunt’s house for a pot-luck meal and just play/ talk together with all the family. Since my aunt’s passing we have not done this since not many family members live close and are willing to host these gatherings.

    I wish that our generation could have enjoyed the summers in Marion like our parents did. I have always enjoyed my time spent there and it was always too short!

  5. Tracy, I love your comment about how “families are the bedrock that holds this country together.” That’s something I try to convey through my fiction: strong families = strong society; dysfunctional families = dysfunctional society.

    I miss the family reunions we used to have every summer when I was a kid, before my grandmother passed away. But we’ve started the tradition of having a cousins get-together at Thanksgiving every year. And it may be years since we’ve seen one another in some cases, but that doesn’t matter. Family is bone-deep. We laugh like it was just yesterday that we call got together.

  6. very nice blog.

  7. I’ve lived in the same as for most of my life and I would give anything to have had a chance to move around. So it goes both ways, Tracy. 🙂

  8. I don’t have any experience with military life, but I do have experience with a very large family and memory-making reunions. I love what you’ve shared here, Tracy, and it makes me ready to visit with my own family again.

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